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Basin Report: Rio GrandeA map of the Rio Grande basin

The Rio Grande Basin is located in the southwestern United States and provides water for irrigation, households, the environment and recreational uses in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas as well as Mexico. Reclamation has two major projects within the basin which irrigate approximately 250,000 acres. This vibrant agricultural economy grows cotton, alfalfa, vegetables, pecans and grain. Reclamation’s facilities also provide critical water and power for industry and communities including Albuquerque and Las Cruces in New Mexico, El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. The Rio Grande Basin supports critical habitat for the Rio Grande silvery minnow and the southwestern willow flycatcher – designated as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. To protect these critical resources, Reclamation must continually evaluate and report on the risks and impacts from a changing climate and to identify appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies utilizing the best available science in conjunction with stakeholders.

Future Changes in Climate and Hydrology

Reclamation’s 2011 SECURE Water Act Report identifies climate challenges the Rio Grande Basin could likely face:

Future Impacts for Water and Environmental Resources

These historical and projected climate changes have potential impacts for the basin: 

Adequate and safe water supplies are fundamental to the health, economy and ecology of the United States and global climate change poses a significant challenge to the protection of these resources. Reclamation is taking a leading role in assessing risks to Western U.S. water resources and is dedicated to mitigate risks to ensure long-term water resource sustainability through its WaterSMART Program.

Where opportunities exist, Reclamation has begun adaptation actions in response to climate stresses as well as land use, population growth, invasive species and others. These activities include extending water supplies, water conservation, hydropower production, planning for future operations and supporting rural water development. Further, the Department of the Interior High Priority Goal for Climate includes activities of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and Climate Science Centers, assessing vulnerabilities to the natural and cultural resources management by the Department and activities to adapt to the stresses of climate change.

This fact sheet contains information from the SECURE Water Act Section 9503(c), Section 6 - Basin Report: Rio Grande. The full report may be read online at www.usbr.gov/climate.

Fact Sheet in PDF

Last updated: 4/25/11