NM water managers warn communities to prepare for low Rio Grande

NM water managers warn communities to prepare for low Rio Grande


The Rio Grande at N.M. 346 in June. About 12 billion gallons of stored water from El Vado Reservoir helped keep the river flowing in central New Mexico last year, but water managers won’t have that option this year. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico water agencies are urging farmers to think twice about planting crops in what could be a tight water year. The state faces a big water debt to downstream users, and a multi-year drought is taking its toll.

The Office of the State Engineer recommends “that farmers along the Rio Chama and in the Middle Valley that don’t absolutely need to farm this year, do not farm,” according to a staff report that Interstate Stream Commission Director Rolf Schmidt-Petersen presented to the Commission earlier this month.

Irrigation supply along the river from Cochiti Dam to Elephant Butte Reservoir is governed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. The district cut its 2020 irrigation season a month short, because there wasn’t enough water to go around. A shorter season also helped deliver some river water to Elephant Butte as part of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Compact obligations.