Conservation Efforts for Rio Grande and Great Salt Lake Covered in Latest Water Report

Key water publication highlights two Audubon projects.

The Water Report—a monthly publication covering key water issues throughout the West—published several articles in the latest issue, two of which were co-written by Audubon.

The first article “New Mexico’s Rio Grande in the 21st Century,” focuses on the Rio Grande in central New Mexico. The area nurtures a novel agricultural-urban ecological system, in which farming, the Rio Grande, and the cities located along the length of the river have become interdependent, having evolved over thousands of years of human habitation.  This evolution has allowed human communities to flourish, but it has come at a cost, having left the valley’s human and natural systems vulnerable to the lack of resilience that comes with rising demand and shrinking water supply.  Fortunately, the water management community in the Middle Rio Grande includes many collaborative, courageous, and creative people who appreciate all that the river provides. This article discusses the history of development of the Rio Grande in New Mexico, highlights current collaborative activities that improve system resiliency and provides a “call to action” for needed resources to bring resiliency activities to necessary scale. Along with Audubon—coauthors include folks from the Utton Center at the University of New Mexico School of Law, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, and the Thornburg Foundation.

The second article covers the establishment and impacts of the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust (the Trust). Great Salt Lake—the largest saline lake in the Western Hemisphere—is an essential and irreplaceable ecosystem facing crisis as climate change, drought, population growth, and increased water diversions have all contributed to a downward trend in lake levels. In 2022, the same year the lake reached its lowest level ever recorded, the Utah Legislature passed The Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Program, authorizing $40 million to establish the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust to enhance water quantity and quality and protect and restore wetlands in the surrounding ecosystem to benefit the lake’s hydrology. Audubon, along with The Nature Conservancy in Utah (TNC), were chosen for their expertise and experience to jointly manage the Trust in achieving the mission to help preserve the irreplaceable wetlands and water of Great Salt Lake by fostering collaborative partnerships and innovative water projects for the benefit of people and wildlife. In the short time since its establishment in January 2023, with the leadership of Audubon and TNC, the Trust’s success in facilitating water transactions to benefit the lake and contributing to the security of Great Salt Lake’s wetlands and habitat has set a precedent for collaborative and creative problem-solving. While this is just one solution to help improve outcomes for Great Salt Lake, it may be a successful model that can be replicated and adapted for other vulnerable ecosystems across the nation. Audubon and TNC collaborated on this article.

To read the full water report, click the link below: