Governing the Rio Grande: Challenges and Opportunities for New Mexico’s Water Supply

  • Melinda Harm BensonEmail author
  • Ryan R. Morrison
  • Dagmar Llewellyn
  • Mark Stone


The Rio Grande in New Mexico provides water to the urban environments of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, as well as surrounding small towns and rural agricultural communities. Long-term climate change projections suggest that New Mexico will experience ongoing drought in the coming decades, placing stress on a system already struggling to meet increasing water demands. Resilience theory provides a lens through which the governance challenges associated with climate change and other factors can be examined. The construction and operation of the many dams, reservoirs, and levees, along with channelization activities, have lowered the overall functional diversity of the river system through channel simplification and bed degradation, with implications for both riverine and riparian habitats. The earlier peak will require more nuanced and intensive water management, including more management flexibility. Changes in water governance strategies will be needed in order to adapt to increased temperatures and other challenges the future will bring. New strategies will include more aggressive management of the upland forest system to decrease the risk of wildfire in the watershed, more operational flexibility for dams and reservoirs, and a new approach to water storage and allocation.


Resilience Adaptive governance Adaptive law Resilience assessment Climate change Water management Regime change 



This work was developed in part under the Adaptive Water Governance Project, funded by the US National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding from the US National Science Foundation, NSF DBI-1052875. The views set forth by contributors to this volume represent their own and do not represent the views of any public or private entity the contributor is affiliated with.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melinda Harm Benson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ryan R. Morrison
    • 2
  • Dagmar Llewellyn
    • 3
  • Mark Stone
    • 3
  1. 1.Haub School of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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