Audubon Southwest is bringing 580 acre-feet (189,000,000 gallons) of water leased from local municipalities back to the Rio Grande to help the federally endangered Rio Grande Silvery Minnow, many bird species and neighboring communities that rely on the river for recreation and solace.
Despite abundant spring flows, the Rio Grande is drying in Albuquerque—a drying that is the result of hot temperatures, a very dry monsoon and limited water storage in upstream reservoirs. In our part to assist with keeping our Rio Grande alive, Audubon Southwest is bringing water leased from local municipalities into the Albuquerque section of the Rio Grande as needed during the months of September and October. This water flow to the river just north of Albuquerque will bolster the environmental water flows the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is releasing to help the federally endangered Rio Grande Silvery Minnow.
Last year, Albuquerque residents witnessed the drying of the Rio Grande through town, causing widespread concern over the river’s well-being, water supply, habitat for birds, and the future of our western river. While the Rio Grande annually dries south of Albuquerque, this was the first time that the Rio went dry in Albuquerque in more than 40 years. Like last year, this year’s Albuquerque drying is concurrent with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District running out of water for the valley’s farmers.
There is a misconception that if the farmers stopped irrigating, the river would have greater flow during times like these, but the Rio Grande and the valley’s farming community are interdependent. Flows released from upstream reservoirs for the farmers provide river flows and bolster water being released for the river’s ecology. Without these flows, there simply isn’t enough water to keep the river flowing—even through Albuquerque.
The water Audubon and the Bureau of Reclamation are bringing to the river flows through northern and central Albuquerque—sustaining the riverside communities and providing a lifeline to the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow, and the numerous birds that rely on a wet river corridor. Birds like the Snowy Egret, Belted Kingfisher, and the Double-crested Cormorant utilize the Rio Grande corridor and rely on a flowing river.
These flows also benefit the Albuquerque community at large by providing the solace and beauty of a flowing river through our majestic cottonwood river corridor.
Audubon Southwest greatly values our partnership with New Mexico’s water management agencies, including the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. The Water Authority provides storage space for our environmental water in Abiquiu Reservoir which allows us to store our limited supply of environmental water during wetter times and release it during dry times, an essential function for dealing with our changing climate and protecting flows in rivers.
This year’s environmental water management activities, including Audubon’s contribution, help alleviate the adverse effects of river drying and lay the groundwork for future actions to save our imperiled Rio Grande.