Save New Mexico’s Last Free-flowing River

Gila River, New Mexico Originating in America’s first designated wilderness area, New Mexico’s Gila River is an ecological treasure that deserves long-term protection. Its riparian forests are home to one of the highest concentrations of breeding birds in the country, and its waters teem with fish. A dammed and diverted Gila would mean significantly less water in the river — a deadly blow to the area’s outdoor economy and wildlife, and a story we’ve seen written across the Southwest too many times.

After three previous failed attempts to dam and divert the Gila, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and local New Mexico CAP Entity are pushing forward with a Gila River diversion project yet again.

But fortunately at least one major hurdle still lies ahead: The New Mexico CAP Entity and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell must sign off on an agreement by Nov. 23.

Take action below — sign our petition urging Secretary Jewell to save the Gila River by refusing to sign this agreement. The area’s long-term water needs can be met by other proven means — through conservation, groundwater management, water recycling and watershed restoration. 

Dear Interior Secretary Sally Jewell,

We, the undersigned, urge you to protect New Mexico’s last free-flowing river from harmful water diversions. Rather than continuing to rely on wasteful dams and diversion projects of the past, we must develop better strategies that use our precious water resources more efficiently, while preserving the health of the rivers so critical to our state’s quality of life, recreation, economy and wildlife.

As you know the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and the local New Mexico CAP Entity are currently considering a large diversion project authorized by the 2004 Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA) to take Gila River water and pump it over the Continental Divide to farms and urban areas. This is the fourth attempt to dam and divert this iconic southwestern river, and the current plan is fatally flawed, just like its predecessors.

The Gila River is a biological gem and deserves long-term protection. A diversion would harm the Gila’s endangered fish and birds as well as the outdoor recreation opportunities that depend on the river’s health. Moreover, this diversion would be extremely expensive — costing more than $1 billion and forcing taxpayers and water users to finance the more than $900 million that will not be covered by the AWSA federal subsidy. Using tax dollars to destroy a river and then pay for a project that is unaffordable is not in the public interest.

The good news is an expensive Gila River diversion is unnecessary. Southwest New Mexico’s water needs can be met cost effectively by using water more wisely through such measures as municipal and agricultural conservation, sustainable groundwater management, water recycling and watershed restoration.

Please support non-diversion alternatives for meeting southwestern New Mexico’s future water needs, and save the Gila River once and for all.


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