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The Paso del Norte
Watershed-Based Plan

USEPA-ACCEPTED Version


The Paso del Norte Watershed Based Plan - Mitigation Measures to Reduce Bacterial Pollution in the Rio Grande...  Download the 3.3MB PDF today!

Abraham Franklin
Program Manager
(505) 827-2793


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2010 PdN QAPP 231 kb Download the 231 kb PDF file today...
2007 TMDL for the LRG
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2004-2006 303(d) / 305(b) Integrated Report
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US EPA Accepts the Paso del Norte Watershed-Based Plan for the Lower Rio Grande

In New Mexico, watershed-based planning is an important component of the Nonpoint Source Management Program. More than a requirement for on-the-ground Section 319 funding, watershed-based planning helps foster communication and coordination between people, organizations, and programs working to protect and restore the environment.


In June 2014, the Region 6 Offices of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) reviewed a watershed plan for the Paso del Norte which was developed by the Paso del Norte Watershed Council with oversight provided by SWQB staff and input and final review by several key stakeholders including the New Mexico Department of Agriculture. This plan built on an earlier, broader efforts for the larger Lower Rio Grande Watershed, some which are listed above, at right.

Based on data collected by the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC), and additional data submitted by other entities, the Rio Grande from one mile downstream of Percha Dam to the international boundary with Mexico was listed as impaired for fecal coliform in the state of New Mexico CWA §303(d) Integrated List of Assessed Surface Waters in 2004.

That same year, NMED conducted an intensive water quality survey which documented an exceedance of the New Mexico Water Quality Standards for the coliform bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) in the Rio Grande one mile downstream of Percha dam to the international boundary with Mexico. As a result, the listing was changed from fecal coliform to E. coli in 2006. Subsequently, a TMDL was calculated for the main stem of the Rio Grande in New Mexico below Elephant Butte Dam. The resulting document, Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Main Stem of the Lower Rio Grande (from The International Boundary with Mexico to Elephant Butte Dam) was completed in 2007.

To determine the sources of E. coli in the watershed, a review of past data collection efforts was conducted followed by an intensive water quality survey that included opportunistic stormwater sampling, periodic sampling of agricultural drains, and routine (monthly) sampling of the Rio Grande at select locations. In addition, once “hotspots” were identified, a small bacterial source tracking study was conducted. The following conclusions were made as a result:

A bulleted item...

The E. coli exceedance in the reach above Leasburg Cable is primarily related to stormwater runoff.

A bulleted item...

The E. coli exceedance in the reach from Anthony to the international boundary with Mexico is primarily related to non-stormwater flows.

A bulleted item...

The drains on the east bank of the Rio Grande contain high levels of E. coli and may be a significant source of E. coli in the lower watershed.

A bulleted item... Two WTTPs in the lower watershed may be a significant source of E. coli in the bottom of the watershed.

Pollutant loading estimates for specific sources of E. coli were determined by several methods. Actual estimated daily loads for Sunland Park and South Central Regional WWTPs were calculated from direct measurements col­lected from the facility outfalls during survey conducted by NMED in 2011. Daily loads were estimated for cattle, sewage, pet, and horse sources in the East Drain as well as horse sources in Montoya Drain.

Targeted management measures to mitigate E. coli pollution were developed for the “hotspots” that were identified from the Anthony 225 Bridge in New Mexico to Courchesne Bridge in El Paso, Texas. Management measures were chosen to target specific areas of concern that were identified as chronic sources of E. coli loading. These include recommendations for facility upgrades at the Sunland Park and South Central Regional WWTPs, constructed wetlands, and dairy waste management in the form of a manure digester. General management measures are also recommended and include detention basins, main stem restoration projects, sub-watershed restoration projects, domestic pet waste management, liquid waste management, Green Infrastructure/Low Impact Development, and continued development of a regional strategy.

The Paso del Norte Watershed Based Plan – Mitigation Measures to Reduce Bacterial Pollution in the Rio Grande also includes an Outreach Program; a discussion of technical and financial assistance needs; an implementation schedule that includes measurable milestones; a set of evaluation criteria to determine if the plan is working, and a monitoring plan to determine if mitigation measures are effective.

For more information, please contact Abe Franklin at the e-address or phone number provided above.


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