In 2014, discussions began between the Eastern New Mexico Water Authority (the Water Authority) and the Canadian River Riparian Restoration Project (CR4) about developing a watershed-based water quality plan for the Ute Reservoir near Logan, New Mexico. The CR4 had completed numerous state- and federally-funded restoration projects and was interested in §319(h) funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Mexico Environmental Department (NMED).
The Water Authority was interested in the quality and quantity of reservoir source water, which will supply the Ute Pipeline project. The EPA funding addresses non-point-source pollution of impaired waters. NMED has designated the Canadian River and Pajarito Creek above the reservoir as impaired by bacteria, nitrogen, and phosphorus. A watershed-based water quality improvement plan for the listed pollutants must be approved by the EPA before funding can flow to local on-the-ground projects.
In 2015, a funding grant was approved for the plan, and NV5 was contracted to write the plan. The first step was to explore the watershed values of the stakeholders. Most of the watershed acreage is actively grazed rangeland. A strong local effort in sustainable ranching has led to an understanding of how to protect local streams. The process was successful in envisioning and writing a watershed plan that addressed both the impairments in water quality identified by NMED and the sustainable use of the rangeland.
Pending EPA approval, long-term implementation of the plan will test the compatibility of these objectives, but we are encouraged by the initial spirit of cooperation between ranchers and regulators.