The State of Western Rivers: New Mexico

A deep dive into the health and future of vital waterways

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The State of Western Rivers: New Mexico
The Mimbres River
A new analysis found that the Gallinas Canyon-Mimbres River watershed (above) in southwest New Mexico is deserving of protection.
Patrick Alexander Flikr Creative Commons

Healthy rivers are crucial for supporting biodiversity and providing clean drinking water and recreational opportunities. Yet in New Mexico and across the West, rivers are under increasing threat as the climate warms, placing greater stress and demand on freshwater resources. Despite their immense value to people, wildlife, and ecosystems, few rivers and streams are safeguarded under federal or state law.

To support greater awareness of and protection for ecologically important rivers, The Pew Charitable Trusts commissioned Conservation Science Partners to assess the rivers in six Western states: California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. The New Mexico analysis found that hundreds of miles of waterways, including Rio San Antonio and the Gallinas Canyon-Mimbres and Red rivers are worthy of state-level or other preservation mechanisms because of their ecological, economic, and cultural importance.

The Little Cimarron River
The Little Cimarron River
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More U.S. Rivers Deserve 'Outstanding' Designation

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In many American communities, rivers irrigate the farms that feed families, quench people’s thirst—rivers are the source of more than two-thirds of the drinking water in the U.S.—sustain wildlife habitat, and provide an economic boost for communities. Yet only a very small portion of those waterways are protected from threats ranging from pollution to damming, which would wreck the water’s natural flow.

Rogue River, Oregon
Rogue River, Oregon
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How Much Do You Know About U.S. Rivers?

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They benefit people, wildlife, ecosystems, and economies—but many face serious threats.

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America’s Overdose Crisis

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Boaters make their way through Hell’s Canyon on the Snake River, one of the longest rivers in the West.
Boaters make their way through Hell’s Canyon on the Snake River, one of the longest rivers in the West.
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New Maps Show U.S. Rivers With High Natural Values

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Several Indigenous communities around the world speak of freshwater systems as “living waters,” testament to the life-giving and sustaining value of rivers, lakes, wetlands, bogs, and more.