PDNWC Region of Interest

Map of the Paso del Norte Watershed Area

Many of the challenges associated with the management of the Paso del Norte watershed are due to its location along the border of the United States and Mexico and in parts of the states of Texas, New Mexico, and Chihuahua. The watershed extends approximately 340 miles along the Rio Grande/Rìo Bravo from Elephant Butte Reservoir in southern New Mexico to the confluence of the Rio Conchas in Presidio County, Texas (includes approximately 430 river miles). With an average rainfall of about 8 inches per year, the watershed receives its water from the Rio Grande and the Hueco, Mesilla, and Jornada aquifers. It irrigates approximately 200,000 acres of farmland and is impacted by the needs of over 2 million people living primarily in the cities of Las Cruces, New Mexico, El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Other challenges in managing the watershed are related to the 1916 damming of the Rio Grande at Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico to store spring Elephant Butte Reservoir runoff for use in irrigated agriculture and provide flood protection. This also altered river flows and essentially eliminated springtime flood pulses. Since that time, the Rio Grande has been straightened and channelized to deliver water more efficiently to irrigators and for flood protection. The floodplain-now contained between levees-is mowed annually for flood control. Releases of water from the upstream reservoirs only occur during the growing season, roughly March to October. As a result, the winter flows in the river consist mainly of return flows from agricultural drains and discharges from sewage treatment plants. The remaining aquatic habitat reflects the altered flows.

Mapping the Paso del Norte Watershed

The extent of the Paso del Norte watershed goes far beyond the banks of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo. It is a sub-region of the larger Rio Grande Basin, extending from Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico to the confluence of the Rio Conchas in Presidio County, Texas, and includes all the land that drains into the Rio Grande between those two points. Efforts to map the watershed (in addition to our Interactive GIS Project) can be found at the following sites:

Mapping the Watershed at New Mexico State University, 2003

Borderland Information Center
New Mexico Water Resources Research Institude, New Mexico Watershed Maps
Paso del Norte Maps for Public Access
USGS Activities in Texas
Paso del Norte Water Task Force
Texas General Land Office