2 – Water Makes Its Way to the Rio Grande

Rivers and Lakes of the San Juan – Chama Project

Starting in the mountains of southern Colorado, the San Juan – Chama Diversion Project carries water through a series of pipelines, tunnels, rivers and reservoirs to the Rio Grande. Water is diverted from the Rio Blanco and Navajo River – tributaries to the San Juan River. Because the water in the San Juan River (and its tributaries) flows into the Colorado River they are controlled by the Colorado River Compact.

The diverted water then flows under the Continental Divide, through 26 miles of tunnels that were built in the 1960’s. The water can be stored in Heron Reservoir. Upon release from Heron Reservoir, it flows down the Rio Chama into El Vado Reservoir. After release from El Vado Reservoir, the waters flow into Abiquiu Reservoir. Below Abiquiu Reservoir the Rio Chama meets with the Rio Grande near Espanola. The water passes through Cochiti Reservoir on the Rio Grande. By the time the San Juan – Chama water reaches Albuquerque it has traveled nearly 200 miles.

Our use of San Juan-Chama water is closely monitored and regulated by the Office of the State Engineer, which among other conditions requires the Water Authority to cease diverting San Juan-Chama water from the Rio Grande during periods of low river flows.

In all, there are more than 18 permit conditions for use of our San Juan-Chama water, which include:

  • water conservation reductions
  • simultaneous return of native carry water
  • no impairment to the downstream senior water rights holders

As a responsible steward of our water resources, we are working closely with the State Engineer to ensure the we continue to meet or exceed all permit requirements in order to protect the river, the people and the wildlife.

Click here for a mapping activity.