Rio Grande

Ed Williams

It’s a peaceful scene on the banks of the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque, with ducks paddling on the slow moving current and the breeze rustling the willows at the water’s edge. But not all is well with the river, says Rich Schrader of the conservation group River Source. He’s out analyzing water samples with students, and there’ve been some troubling results—mainly, the turbidity, or murkiness, of the water.

Ed Williams

Stormwater is a major source of pollution in the Rio Grande. The U.S. Geological Survey released a nine-year study of stormwater in the Albuquerque area last week, finding high concentrations of pollutants in the city’s arroyos.

Andy Magee via Flickr

Some of the money from the Department of Energy’s settlement with New Mexico following a radiation leak at a nuclear waste storage facility last year will go to address stormwater issues at Los Alamos National Laboratory. 

KUNM Reporting Series

Apr 15, 2015

The Rio Grande runs through three states, and all along the way communities use the river’s waters for drinking, crop irrigation, and for Native American religious ceremonies. But with New Mexico’s biggest urban centers and military bases—and the substantial pollution they generate—near to the riverbanks, how safe is the Rio Grande for people and wildlife?

Ed Williams

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority announced Wednesday that it’s building more backup safety systems at the wastewater treatment plant following a massive spill of partially treated sewage into the Rio Grande.

Ed Williams-KUNM

Albuquerque’s wastewater treatment plant spilled nearly 6 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the Rio Grande last Friday. Public Health New Mexico’s Ed Williams reports there was an equipment failure at one of the plant’s pumping facilities.

Officials with the Southside Wastewater Reclamation Plant say there was a spike in power during last week’s heavy snowstorm. That power spike disabled a pump station.

Plant Operations Manager Charles Leder says backup systems should have protected the facility from power fluctuations.

Ed Williams

We recently published the first two stories in an ongoing series on pollution and the Rio Grande in which we plan to explore a range of topics and issues.

Rita Daniels

Businesses, military bases and city utilities have dozens of permits to release pollution into the Rio Grande watershed. Albuquerque’s wastewater treatment plant is one of the biggest sources of discharges into the river.

The plant has had trouble with regulators and neighboring communities in the past, but they’re making some headway. 

On a recent sunny day in Albuquerque’s South Valley, water utility workers bent over a grate taking readings of the city’s treated wastewater as it rushes from the Southside Water Reclamation Plant into the Rio Grande.

City Council Halts Bosque Development

Feb 18, 2015
Sierra Club

UPDATE 6a: Albuquerque city councilors voted to suspend construction to widen a trail in the bosque Wednesday.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Mayor Richard Berry could veto the measure.

Last week, the city began cutting a six-foot wide path to replace a narrower foot path as part of a development plan for the forest along the Rio Grande.

Opponents say the city ignored public input and are calling for more time to come to consensus on a bosque plan. 

Ed Williams-KUNM


Editor's Note: After we published this story, a spokesperson for Kirtland Air Force Base wrote with a series of objections to the story. Kirtland did not allege any factual inaccuracy in our story but we did make a change to reflect that Kirtland's lead discharges into the Rio Grande watershed are not in violation of environmental laws. You can read all of their objections and our responses here


elycefeliz via flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency is working with the City of Albuquerque to install a state of the art parking lot at a municipal facility that will reduce pollution flowing into the Rio Grande. 

The city is spending $61,000 to replace an old parking lot at Pino Yards, a municipal maintenance and fueling facility. The project is part of a settlement with the EPA, coming after toxic runoff from the site drained into the Rio Grande, resulting in violations of the Clean Water Act.

Floyd Muad'Dib via Flickr



The head of the Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy made her way through central and northern New Mexico Monday to check out how $2 million from a federal clean water fund is being used.  She applauded a flood control project that replaces the concrete used to line arroyos with things like boulders and native plants.


US Bureau of Reclamation

A legal battle over water in the lower Rio Grande has New Mexico accusing the federal government of trying to take control of the state’s groundwater.

In a filing in the Third District Court in Las Cruces recently, the Bureau of Reclamation said it should be able to pump groundwater when it needs to deliver water in the Rio Grande to downstream users, such as farmers.

That raised the hackles of New Mexico state legislators, and others, including the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer. That office controls the state’s groundwater.

More New Mexicans to rely on Colorado River water

Jul 23, 2012
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

A study by the federal government shows that New Mexico is expected to see its population that uses the Colorado River Basin for water grow from nearly 1.5 million people today to between 2 million and 3 million by 2060.

That's according to the latest data from a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study.

The Albuquerque Journal reports ( that New Mexico and the other states that depend on the Colorado River Basin for water face a growing gap between how much water nature provides and how much people want to use.

Laura Paskus/KUNM

The monsoon rains arrived this month, but it’s still hot and dry in New Mexico.

The ongoing drought is placing stress on the state’s rivers and streams, including the Rio Grande. And while cities and farmers still receive their shares of water, each summer, one user gets left out—the Rio Grande itself. Like it has every summer for the past decade, the Rio Grande downstream of Albuquerque is drying.

Jim Rorabaugh/USFWS

The public has two months to weigh in on a proposal to revise critical habitat for the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher in six states.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified more than 2,100 stream miles in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico as part of the habitat proposal.

The agency says about 900 miles are currently being considered for exclusion from the final designation, while two more locations in Arizona could be added.

Utility inadvertently diverted irrigation water

Jul 5, 2012
Jesse Shuck

The water utility in Albuquerque inadvertently diverted farmers' irrigation water from the Rio Grande for more than a week in late June and used it for the city's drinking water supplies.

The Albuquerque Journal reports ( that John Stomp, chief operating officer of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility, acknowledged the improper diversions and agreed to pay back the farmers.