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Public Lands

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Colorado's public lands are faced with new challenges but water and land management depend on working together. Read about the relationship between water and land in Colorado and how Coloradans are converging to restore Colorado's public lands in the Spring 2018 issue of Headwaters magazine.

Browse articles and find a flipbook of the magazine here.

Connecting the Drops

connectingdropslogo4.1Bringing you the reporting you crave over the radio airways with extras and archives on our website. Visit the audio archives or listen to the latest story on the connection between Colorado's forests, watersheds, and forest fires:

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Water Education Colorado

Rio Grande Basin

The headwaters of the Rio Grande Basin help feed a river system that produces the fifth-longest river in North America. Traveling 1,885 miles from its headwaters to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande carries water from three states in the U.S. and five in Mexico.

The Rio Grande's headwaters begin at Stony Pass in Colorado's San Juan Mountains. Flowing east, the river passes through the town of Creede on its way into the San Luis Valley where runoff from both the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountains empties into its quickly descending banks. The river also feeds the valley's aquifers and extensive wetlands that provide ideal habitat for many plants and animals, including the endangered whooping crane.

The San Luis Valley also contains the Closed Basin, a unique geologic structure in the northern part of the valley that scientists believe is hydrologically disconnected from the Rio Grande. To help meet Colorado's interstate water delivery obligations, water is pumped out of the Closed Basin and into the Rio Grande each year.

The Rio Grande travels approximately 175 miles in Colorado before it crosses into New Mexico. Its primary tributary in Colorado is the Conejos River that joins the Rio Grande south of the city of Alamosa. Other small tributaries include the Alamosa River and La Jara and Trinchera creeks. The Rio Chama also begins in the Colorado's southern San Juans, but joins the Rio Grande in New Mexico. This tributary is an important component of the San Juan-Chama Project that diverts water from Colorado's Western Slope to urban centers in New Mexico.

Water Protection and Management Organizations

Water Conservation Districts

Water conservation districts are the local water-policy making bodies created by the Colorado General Assembly ‘to protect and develop the water to which Colorado is entitled.’ One district covers the entire basin: the Rio Grande Water Conservation District in Alamosa.

Water Conservancy Districts

Water conservancy districts are local governmental agencies originally created to construct, pay for and operate water projects. There are five districts in the Rio Grande Basin: Alamosa-La Jara, Conejos, Costilla County, San Luis Valley and Trinchera.

Groundwater Management Sub-Districts

Two sub-districts are currently under development. One sub-district is pending in water court.

Local Watershed Groups

Alamosa River Foundation
Colorado Acequia Association
Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project
San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council
San Luis Valley Wetlands Committee
Willow Creek Reclamation Committee

Endangered Species
The Rio Grande silvery minnow was designated an endangered species in 1994. Once found throughout the river system in New Mexico, Texas and Mexico, the silvery minnow now occupies only five percent of its historic range. In 2000, 20 groups throughout New Mexico formed the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program to help manage the fish's recovery through habitat conservation and restoration, scientific study and better river management.

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