Saltcedar in New Mexico Jeopardizing the Health of Our Watersheds
Perhaps the most damaging effect, and the one the demands the most rapid attention, is the impact of saltcedar on New Mexico's watershed health. If saltcedar continues to expand it could infest as many as 900,000 acres in New Mexico within a few years. The rates of evapotranspiration (water use) in saltcedar are higher than most plants in the Southwest, including native riparian species (McDaniel et al., 2005). According to the National Park Service (2004), "A single, large tamarisk can transpire up to 300 gallons of water per day."McDaniel (2005) claims that, "Tamarix in heavily infested areas of the Southwest is estimated to consume almost twice as much water annually as the major cities of southern California." The people of New Mexico depend a great deal on the Rio Grande Basin watershed for irrigation and drinking. Although water conservation is extremely important in the desert Southwest, we will be fighting an uphill battle against saltcedar if no solution is implemented. As saltcedar continues to expand it will use more and more water, putting an ever-increasing strain on the health of our watersheds. Based on an estimate of about 1.4 million acres of infestation across the Western United States, McDaniel (2005) estimates that, "the presence of Tamarix in the western United States will cost from $7 billion to $16 billion in lost ecosystem functions over the next 55 [years]." Clearly, something must be done to combat saltcedar infestations.