SJCWP History


The Partnership (Est. 2014)

Founded in at a stakeholder meeting in Dulce, NM 2014 with a group of state and federal agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and community members, the San Juan – Chama Watershed Partnership formed as a means for collaboration between land managers in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. With focus on forestry, land use, water quality, water management, fish and wildlife, and education and economic development, the Partnership formed as a mechanism for various entities to communicate and collaborate on shared concerns, challenges, and decision-making processes to better protect and enhance the watershed. The Partnership utilizes the forest product industry as an important partner to maintain and enhance forest health and we understand that forest product utilization goes hand-in-hand with forest health initiatives that help to bolster economic growth in the region’s communities.

A major effort of the organization has been to work with partners to bring more resources for developing resilient ecosystems to the area. A large effort was made in 2015 to develop a grant proposal for the Department of Energy to continue to develop Biomass Industry for the area. Although this grant was not funded, the development of the stakeholder group led to the development of a Natural Resources Conservation Service Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant led by the East Rio Arriba Soil and Watershed Conservation District that has been funded.

At the 2016, Rio Chama Congreso, sponsored by Rio Grande Restoration via a WaterSMART grant from the Bureau of Reclamation, the boundaries of the San Juan – Chama Watershed Partnership, which the southern boundary had previously been the El Vado Dam, was extended to cover the entire Rio Chama Watershed to the confluence of the Rio Grande.

The San Juan – Chama Watershed Partnership works in the Rio Chama Basin and the three tributaries to the Bureau of Reclamation’s San Juan – Chama Project: the Navajo River, the Little Navajo River, and the Rio Blanco. Together, these rivers account for one-third of New Mexico’s water used for drinking and agricultural purposes. The cross-boundary nature of the region amplifies the need for cohesive collaboration between land managers in the area. Many of the partners, including the neighboring San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership and the overarching 2-3-2 Cohesive Strategy Partnership worked together on a wildfire value at risk assessment for the Blanco and Navajo watersheds. After completing this assessment and identifying high priority places for investment in thinning, prescribed and managed fire, the cities and farming interests committed to recurring funding to fund those activities. For example, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority committed $1 million to be used over a 5-year timeframe.

Prior to the adoption of this document, the governance structure for SJCWP has been loosely defined. In the absence of paid staff, the Chama Peak Land Alliance provided leadership via their executive director. In the spring of 2017, this leadership changed, prompting an opportunity to develop an organizational structure among the partnership to provide leadership to the organization, thus this governance document.

Partnership Successes

San Juan - Chama Diversion Project (1962-1976)

The San Juan - Chama Project was authorized on June 13, 1962 as part of the Public Law 87-483 to bring fresh water from the Rio Chama Watershed Basin to the Santa Fe and Albuquerque populations. The Project is a series of dams that divert a certain amount of water, from the Rio Blanco, Little Navajo and Navajo rivers, through 28 miles of tunnels to the Heron Reservoir.

Blanco Diversion Dam (April 2018) - Photo by Caitlin Barbour

Blanco Diversion Dam (April 2018) - Photo by Caitlin Barbour

Acequia (6,000-10,000 ya)

Acequia is a Spanish word that originates from the Arabic "as-sāqiya". The Spanish meaning of the word roughly translates to "irrigation ditch" or "canal" and is used as the name for ditch-type irrigation systems in the New Mexico region, of which there are 800 to 1000. Acequias systems are approximately 6,000 years old with some found in Turkey estimated to be 10,000 years old.