Rio Grande Designated as National “Great Water”

Posted on April 7, 2011

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New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and 5 Mexican States Join Together in Restoration Efforts

 

Santa Fe, NM – In the wake of passage of SB 373, which removed funding for some New Mexico water restoration projects, and federal legislation that threatens to cut $2.5 billion in restoration programs nationwide, the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo Regional Advisory Council (RAC) joined the efforts of the national Great Waters Coalition. Membership comes as the Coalition designated the Rio Grande as a “Great Water” providing additional support for restoring the “Great River.”

More than 8 million people live within the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo watershed in the US, and most cities along the river depend on it entirely for their existence. Although the Rio is currently flowing in most areas, its future flow rates are always uncertain, affected by excessive withdrawal, degraded water quality, invasive species, altered water flows, climate change, and loss of habitat, directly threatening the economic and ecosystem services it provides.

“The Rio Grande is the backbone of the Southwest. There are many people and organizations addressing a piece of the river, but a functional comprehensive approach has yet to materialize.” said Felicity Broennan, Executive Director of the Santa Fe Watershed Association, Vice-Chair of the Rio-Grande-Rio Bravo Regional Advisory Council (RAC) and principle contact for the Great Waters Coalition, Rio Grande Basin. “By combining our efforts regionally and nationally, we add our voice to those of other national great waters, and give our Great River a fighting chance.”

The Rio Grande–Rio Bravo Regional Advisory Council, formed in the past ten months, represents organizations that span the entire watershed, including partners from over 150 federal, state, and local agencies, and a wide array of NGOs, collaborating to manage specific issues that arise in the watershed.

RAC petitioned the Great Waters Coalition to list the Rio Grande as a “Great Water,” in order to add its voice to the Great Waters movement, and leverage federal support for funding to restore and protect the Rio Grande. The designation, and induction into the Coalition supports the Council’s efforts to compile and organize existing plans so that a Comprehensive Restoration Plan may be created. The Comprehensive Restoration Plan will formulate a bi-national, ecosystem-based action program for the sustainable management and use of the Rio Grande throughout its watershed, assigning price tags to relevant measures.

Most of the country’s Great Water watersheds now require upwards of $1 billion to fully restore their ecosystems, and in a place like Louisiana, that price is more like $100 billion.

“By connecting organizations, institutions, agencies, Pueblos and indigenous tribes and forming an alliance from the headwaters to Gulf, the endangered and overly- exploited Rio Grande~Rio Bravo can have a voice, earning federal recognition, and supportive funding,” added Broennan. “By working together, we can accomplish a great deal more than we can if we continue these piecemeal efforts of the past. Water is life, and without it our communities and our economies perish.”

The Great Waters Coalition, consists of more than 150 local, regional, and national organizations that advocate for funding, raises awareness, and educates decision makers about the challenges facing the nation’s Great Waters. To learn more about the Great Waters Coalition, and to view a complete list of America’s Great Waters, please visit: http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/What-We-Do/Waters/Great-Waters-Restoration/Great-Waters-Coalition.aspx

RAC Partners include: Gulf of Mexico Foundation, Big Bend Bi-national Conservation Cooperative, USEPA, Texas State University (River Systems Institute), International Boundary and Water Commission, Rio Grande Federal Coordinating Committee, whose representation includes USEPA, USFWS, USGS, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, USDA, Department of Interior- US/Mexico Border Field Coordinating Committee, United Nations/GEF project between Mexico’s agencies, Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources, CONAGUA (National Water Commission) and IMTA (Mexican Water Technology Institute), as well as Mexican and American non-profits, state agencies, universities, private citizens, landowners, and local political leaders from both the United States and Mexico.

Contact: Felicity Broennan, 505-820-1696, mobile 970-759-0203

felicity@santafewatershed.org

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