There are Many Problems for the Rio Fernando and Our Communities
You may not know this, but the Rio Fernando is struggling and polluted. Water is warming and the life in the river is dying. There is trash, E. coli, and other stressors harming the river. Plus, Taos faces an extreme and ongoing drought. Our acequias that provide water to our farms and landscapes in Taos Valley need maintenance, manpower, and investment. In addition, it can be difficult and dangerous to walk and bike around and get access to the river to recreate. Our forests are overgrown with trees and brush and when combined with warming temperatures create conditions that increase catastrophic wildfires that threaten our Rio Fernando neighborhoods and headwaters. Many of the wetlands, our natural water storage areas, are gone or degraded. This increases flash flooding and at the other times dries up the Rio Fernando and our acequias. And to top it all off, many people are not aware of where the Rio Fernando is and do not understand the value of the river and our acequia traditions.
Rio Fernando Collaborative Three Main Project Areas to Revitalize the River & Communities
Strengthen our Acequia Traditions and Culture
Our acequias that provide water to our farms and landscapes in Taos Valley need maintenance, manpower, and investment. The Collaborative is reaching out to realtors, title companies, youth, and landowners to gain their awareness, support and involvement in keeping the traditions and culture that operate and sustain this critical water network for outdoor watering. Acequias and their associations are critical to keeping Taos Valley lands in agricultural production. The Collaborative also raises funds and helps recruit people and experts to participate in acequia projects to restore, re-engineer, and repair acequia infrastructure connected to the Rio Fernando.
Restore Water Quality, Healthy Forests and River Habitat
The Collaborative has a variety of projects to clean water and bring the river back to life. This include creating healthy headwater forests, including forest thinning, to help better protect communities from catastrophic wildfires. The Rio Fernando collaborative also works with ranchers to improve grazing management to help protect the river, fish and wildlife in the upper river areas. An example of this is installing fencing on ranchlands to keep cows out of the river. They also are working to restore wetlands and remove invasive weeds that choke out native species and reduce wildlife. In town and other developed areas the Collaborative is working to reduce pollution that runs off from homes and buildings by installing ‘green infrastructure’. They also are exploring how to work with homeowners to reduce septic tank pollution and manage pet waste.
Getting around town and getting access to the Rio Fernando is difficult and at times dangerous due to limited pathways. In addition, trails in the upper watersheds are degrading or missing – leading to pollution of the river and limited access. The Rio Fernando collaborative is working to repair existing trails, paths, and parks (such as Rio Fernando Park), and create new trail systems, paths, and parks to safely connect Taosenos to the land and water they love.