State of New Mexico > Environment Department > Surface Water Quality Bureau


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New Mexico's Environment Department and the Interstate Stream Commission are working cooperatively to develop solutions to concerns regarding the quantity and quality of the water delivered to the State of Texas. Elevated salinity in the Rio Grande Project area, which extends from above Elephant Butte Reservoir, New Mexico, to Fort Quitman, Texas, has long been recognized.

The problems associated with elevated salinity are increasing due to rapid urban growth in the El Paso/Ciudad Juárez International Border area, and increasing demand for potable water. Utilization of water resources in the Rio Grande Project area is restricted where highly saline water results in reduced potable water supplies, smaller crop yields, as well as soil and groundwater deterioration.

The SWQB has designed and implemented a salinity monitoring network in the Lower Rio Grande (LRG) from 2005 to present.  The network is designed to improve our understanding of salinity and the processes effecting changes in salinity in the Rio Grande from above Elephant Butte Reservoir at San Marcial, downstream to Courchesne Bridge near El Paso, Texas.  The LRG Program conducts water quality investigations targeted on salinity control solutions; identifying sources of salinity; focusing response efforts in this critical border region; and providing the technical basis for an effective salinity control program.


Rio Grande Salinity Management Report 8.7 MB Download the 8.7 MB PDF file today...
Economic Benefits Calculator 2 MB Download the 2 MB MS Excel Spreadsheet today...
ELP Salinity Model 195 kb Download the 195 kb MS Excel Spreadsheet today...

Project Primer 33 kb Download the 33 kb PDF file today...
Salinity Fact Sheet 43 kb Download the 43 kb PDF file today...

Lower Rio Grande WQ Survey
- 2004
278 kb Download the 278 kb PDF file today...
Lower Rio Grande Tributaries WQ Survey
- 2004
285 kb Download the 285 kb PDF file today...

Another online LRG topic at SWQB:

Bulleted item Lower Rio Grande TMDL

SWQB’s water quality studies support recent university research that has identified natural sources as the principal salinity contributor in the area, offering hope for intercepting salinity before it impacts water supplies. In response to these findings, the Program initiated a multi-state effort to create a Rio Grande salinity management program, patterned after the successful Colorado River Salinity Control Forum. Lowering salinity levels in groundwater and surface water will increase available potable water supplies in the critical Texas-New Mexico International Boundary border region.

NMED and NMISC facilitated the formation of  Rio Grande Salinity Management Coalition consisting of water managers, the Rio Grande Compact Commission, and water user groups from Colorado, New Mexico and Texas that are actively working together to reduce and manage salinity in the Rio Grande Project area.   In 2009 NMED, ISC, and the US Army Corps of Engineers completed the first phase of a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) Section 729  Rio Grande Salinity Management Program which included a geospatial salinity database; a USGS Rio Grande Salinity Assessment Study; and Rio Grande  Economic Impact Assessment study.

Rio Grande Project Salinity Management Coalition

Bulleted Item... Rio Grande Compact Commissioners from Texas, New Mexico & Colorado
Bulleted Item... Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Bulleted Item... Texas Water Development Board
Bulleted Item... New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission
Bulleted Item... New Mexico Office of the State Engineer
Bulleted Item... New Mexico Environment Department
Bulleted Item... Colorado Division of Water Resources
Bulleted Item... El Paso Water Utilities
Bulleted Item... Las Cruces Utilities Department
Bulleted Item... Elephant Butte Irrigation District
Bulleted Item... El Paso County Water Improvement Irrigation District No. 1
Bulleted Item... Hudspeth County Conservation and Reclamation District #1
Bulleted Item... New Mexico State University, Water Resources Research Institute
Bulleted Item... Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center
Bulleted Item... University of Texas at El Paso, CERM
Bulleted Item... New Mexico Department of Agriculture
Bulleted Item... US Bureau of Reclamation
Bulleted Item... US Geological Survey, NM & Texas Water Science Centers

Additional Resources
Bulleted Item... Rio Grande Salinity Management Coalition – Phase 2 Products:
Bulleted Item... Alternatives Analysis for the Rio Grande Salinity Management Program
Bulleted Item... Distal Mesilla Conceptual Site Model
Bulleted Item... Refinement of Site Screening Criteria
Bulleted Item... Review of Findings of PEIA and Recommendations for Detailed Agricultural Economic Assessment
Bulleted Item... Rio Grande Salinity Management Coalition – Phase 1 Products:
Bulleted Item... Geospatial Salinity Database - Evaluation and Design/Compilation
Bulleted Item... Rio Grande Salinity Assessment Study
Bulleted Item... Rio Grande Economic Impact Assessment Study and Addendum
Bulleted Item... Real-time Salinity Monitoring Probes
Bulleted Item... RIO GRANDE AT EL PASO, TX
Bulleted Item... 2007 Rio Grande Project Salinity Management Workshop
Bulleted Item... Presentations
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Other Rio Grande Salinity Studies and Reports

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Crilley, D.M., Matherne, A.M., Thomas, Nicole, and Falk, S.E., 2013, Seepage investigations of the Rio Grande from below Leasburg Dam, Leasburg, New Mexico, to above American Dam, El Paso, Texas, 2006–13: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013–1233, 34 p.,

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Daniel B. Stephens & Associates, Inc.  (DDS&A),  2010, Evaluation of Rio Grande Salinity San Marcial New Mexico to El Paso Texas, report prepared for New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and New Mexico Environment Department.

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Doremus, D. and Lewis, G., 2008 Rio Grande Salinity Management — A Real Possibility? – Article in Southwest Hydrology – March/April 2008.

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Doremus, D and Michelsen, A., 2008, Rio Grande Salinity Management - First Steps Toward Interstate Solutions, in Proceedings of the 53rd Annual New Mexico Water Conference.

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Hawley, J.W., and Kennedy, J.F., 2004, Creation of a digital hydrogeologic framework model of the Mesilla Basin and southern Jornada del Muerto Basin: Las Cruces, NM, New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute of New Mexico State University, Technical Completion Report 332, 123 p.

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Hogan, J.F., Phillips, F.M., Mills, S.K., Hendrickx, J.M.H., Ruiz, Joaquin, Chesley, J.T., Asmerom, Yemane, 2007, Geologic origins of salinization in a semi-arid river: The role of sedimentary basin brines: Geology, v. 35, no. 12, p. 1063–1066.

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Moore, S.J., Basset, R.L., Liu, Beiling, Wolf, C.P., and Doremus, Dale, 2008, Geochemical tracers to evaluate hydrogeologic controls on river salinization: Ground Water, May-June 2008, p. 489–501.

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USGS, Evaluation of the Lower Rio Grande Hydrologic Data Compendium as a Preliminary Source of Salinity-Related data, 2008, Evaluation Summary Report submitted to the US Army Corps of Engineers - Albuquerque District.

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Witcher, J.C., King, J.P., Hawley, J.W., Kennedy, J.F., Williams, J., Cleary, M., and Bothern, L.R., 2004, Sources of salinity in the Rio Grande and Mesilla Basin groundwater: Las Cruces, NM, New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute of New Mexico State University, Technical Report 330, 168 p.

For more information, please contact the acting Project Coodinator, James Hogan, at the address or phone number provided above.


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