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Mora Watershed Plan FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Watershed?  A watershed is a region of land that drains into a particular body of water such as a river or a lake. Rain or snow that falls anywhere in that watershed eventually flows to that water body. It may travel overland as surface water or flow underground as groundwater.  The Mora watershed is all the land from the top of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the valley bottoms that drain into the Mora River.  If this land is healthy it increases the chances that we’ll have cool, clean and abundant water, as well as productive forests, rangelands, agricultural lands and backyards well into the future. 

Where does the funding for this project come from? Funding comes from EPA who supports local watersheds through a grant known as the Federal Clean Water Act Section 319 Nonpoint Source Grant.  Those funds go to the NM Environment Department who then grants them to watershed organizations in NM.

What are acceptable nutrient levels? Streams with marginal coldwater uses in the EPA Level III Ecoregion Southwestern Tablelands should not exceed .38 mg/L of nitrogen and .03 mg/L of phosphorus.

What are the nutrient levels in the Mora River?  The NM Environment Department has monitored water quality in the Mora and has recorded nutrient levels as high as .515 mg/L of nitrogen and .064 mg/L of phosphorus.

Why are high nutrient levels a problem?  While nutrients occur naturally and are needed to insure productive aquatic ecosystems, in high concentrations they result in lower levels of oxygen in the stream.  When nutrient levels get too high, oxygen levels plummet and this can be harmful or even fatal to fish and to other organisms that depend on the stream. Beyond toxicity to aquatic organisms which reduces biological diversity in streams, high nutrient levels affect the clarity and smell of river water compromising that clean, cold, and pure look to our river. 

What are causes of high stream nutrient levels? Are some “natural” and some human influenced? Many factors can cause high nutrient levels. Erosion from streambanks, erosion from over grazing pastures, septic systems, low flow and flow diversions, and municipal discharges can cause high nutrient levels. While this project will look at all potential causes, the final plan produced will only address non-point sources (i.e. will not address or try to remediate municipal discharges).

What kinds of projects might help reduce nutrient levels and improve watershed health?  1. improvements to livestock watering and grazing systems, 2. planting trees and shrubs along the river, 3. building structures in the river to help restore natural flow patterns and narrow and deepen the channel. 4. Build wetlands 5. Repair eroding stream banks.

How can the community be involved in this project? It takes the entire community working together to take care of the river and the bosque.  Our families have relied on the river for generations; we know that if we take care of the river, it will take care of us.  We will be meeting with each family that lives along the river to hear about their ideas and concerns.  We will also hold public meetings and workshops; all opportunities for the public to be involved and learn more about watershed health.  The community can help by doing field work with our researchers, attending a workshop on watershed restoration techniques, or just coming out to our events.  Landowners can come forward and express their interest in doing watershed restoration work on their property.  Community members can use this as an opportunity to educate themselves on what makes a watershed healthy and examine ways to improve their use of the land to help keep it that way.  We are here to help, so please ask us!