In 1982, the National Park Service (NPS) did a study of all of the rivers in the United States and found that all 255 miles of the New Mexico portion of the 649-mile-long Gila River qualified for National Wild and Scenic Rivers designation.
Through Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004, Congress authorized the diversion of the Gila River if New Mexico agreed to buy water from Arizona to replace what the state takes out of the river. However, a Gila River diversion is costly and unnecessary and would harm the Gila River’s qualification to join the National Wild and Scenic River system. Less costly, common-sense, environmentally-friendly options should be instead considered to meet the water demands of southwest New Mexico. Designation as a National Wild and Scenic River is also a preferred alternative to damming the river.