Phreatophyte Restoration

This project was designed to control non-native russian olives and salt cedars (phreatophytes) in an effort to conserve water and promote healthy ecosystems.   The project is located in Montezuma County in Southwest Colorado, which is home to Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Yucca House National Monument.  Our county has a very diverse landscape with very fragile ecosystems.

Montezuma County Noxious Weed Department (MCNWD) has mapped over 8,000 acres of land that has been taken over by these non-native phreatophytes.  Using data from scientific studies, we have calculated the water loss to be 9,556 acre-feet or 3,113,836,236 per year.

Using the United States Drought Monitor map archive we can see that since 2012 Montezuma County has had 13 years of reported drought and only 5 years reporting no drought.  Montezuma County is currently in the D4 Intensity category documenting exceptional drought.  Our average rainfall is only 16.4 inches a year, which is challenging enough without drought conditions.

MCNWD is seeking funds to support our Phreatophyte Project in an effort to remove the non-native phreatophytes to conserve as much water as possible.  The water saved can be used for many different purposes:  to support agriculture, the re-establishment of native vegetation, increase wildlife habitat, increase forage for declining elk populations, or to benefit the community in other ways.  Currently, about 1/3 of the Ute Mountain Reservation (located on the southwest portion of Montezuma County) does not have running water.  This highlights the immense need for water conservation in this region.

For more information please refer to: Phreatophyte-Project-and-Ten-Year-Plan.pdf (

* Project restores natural hydrologic conditions to facilitate improved capture and infiltration of surface water and groundwater recharge


Cortez, CO

Start Up Date:


Project Benefits:

Community Engagement & Education

Enhancing Recreation & Economic Benefits

Increasing Water Conservation & Efficiency

Securing Water for Communities & Food Production

Water Quality Improvement

Wildlife & Habitat Protection

Project Type:

Restoration of Natural Hydrology *


Funding Needed