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Headwaters magazineRead feature articles on the Rio Grande Basin below, view or download the online issue for the full magazine.

Watermarks--Letter from the Editor

Leadership Rio Grande Style

This July, in preparation for this ‘Basin Focus’ issue of Headwaters, I attended the Rio Grande Water Conservation District meeting in Alamosa. Around the state, at board meetings like these, so many of our immediate water policies are hatched—whether at the annual meeting of the local ditch board, or the bi-monthly three-day meetings of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Read more: Watermarks--Letter from the Editor

New Report Promotes ‘Smart’ Water Use and Supply

BOULDER—Conservation, efficiency, reuse and water sharing between cities and farmers are higher priorities than building new reservoirs, concludes a new study just released by a consortium of Colorado environmental concerns. Their detailed report Facing Our Future: A Balanced Water Solution for Colorado takes an alternative look at how to satisfy the state's growing demands for water.

Read more: New Report Promotes ‘Smart’ Water Use and Supply

Bureau Celebrates 75th Year Anniversary of Water Lab

DENVER—The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation celebrated the 75th anniversary of its Water Resources Research Laboratory on August 19. Housed at the Federal Center in west Denver, the lab is the only one of its kind in the nation. A quiet cornerstone of modern water storage and development projects, the laboratory has tested and helped engineer the design of most all the major dams in the West: Shasta, Hoover, Glen Canyon, Grand Cooley, Imperial, as well as the All American Canal and others.

Read more: Bureau Celebrates 75th Year Anniversary of Water Lab

What is Causing Algae Blooms in the Animas River?

DURANGO—Since 2003, the Animas Nutrients Working Group has been sampling the waters of the Animas River Basin to help understand where high concentrations of nutrients may be entering the river. Motivated by ropey blooms of green algae that started appearing in the river during the summer of 2002, this unique group of governmental agencies, tribes, cities and watershed groups from Colorado and New Mexico, is attempting to understand and mitigate the source of the problem.

Read more: What is Causing Algae Blooms in the Animas River?

1938 Rio Grande Compact Meters Water to Thirsty Basin

Traveling 1,885 miles through Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and five Mexican states, the Rio Grande's history is marked by conflict and debate as countries and states fought for what they believed to be their fair share of the river.

In 1906, treaty negotiations between the U.S. and Mexico established how much Rio Grande water Mexico would receive. But the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas still had no formal agreement on how to divide the waters among them. When farmers in Colorado's San Luis Valley sought to increase diversions of the river to bring more acreage into production, New Mexico and Texas quickly voiced their opposition. They feared such diversions would compromise the Rio Grande Project, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation system which supplies agricultural irrigation water to those two states.

Read more: 1938 Rio Grande Compact Meters Water to Thirsty Basin

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.

Read more: Rio Grande Basin

Preserving Wetlands in an Alpine Desert

By Marcia Darnell

The San Luis Valley of southern Colorado is known as an agricultural land of plenty. Its potatoes, wheat, alfalfa, barley and other bounty make their way to feedlots and dinner plates throughout the region. However, meteorologists say this breadbasket is technically a desert, averaging less than 8 inches of precipitation per year.

Read more: Preserving Wetlands in an Alpine Desert

Big Ambitions: Restoring the Rio Grande

By Paul Formisano

Although the Rio Grande travels nearly 175 miles before it enters New Mexico, it seems to do so in silence. Isolated from Colorado's economic and political hubs by the surrounding mountains, this river basin often escapes the attention its neighboring rivers receive. Even when the non-profit group American Rivers listed the Rio Grande in 2003 as one of the nation's most threatened, Colorado's stretch of the river avoided mention. But that has not deterred local groups from working on an ambitious plan to bring the Upper Rio Grande back to vibrant life.

Read more: Big Ambitions: Restoring the Rio Grande

Declining Aquifers

By Ruth Heide

San Luis Valley water users struggle to pump groundwater sustainably

Throughout the last four years, water tables in some of the San Luis Valley's shallow aquifers have been dropping like a stone. Some 20 percent of the valley's total water supply is from groundwater—most of which is used for agricultural irrigation. Groundwater also helps sustain numerous meadow wetlands in the valley, home to abundant wildlife. But as water managers watched the aquifers slide further into decline, it became obvious that even Mother Nature could not bail them out.

Read more: Declining Aquifers

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Connecting the Drops Partners

Connecting the Drops is a radio collaboration between Water Education Colorado and Colorado Community Radio Stations KGNU, KDNK and KRCC.


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