U.S. Water News Online
ALBUQUERQUE -- Farmers in central New Mexico could face
restrictions on how much water they can store in reservoirs upstream
for irrigation late in the growing season.
Under the Rio Grande Compact, irrigation water cannot be stored in
northern New Mexico's El Vado Reservoir on the Chama River during
unusually dry spells, the Albuquerque Journal reported in a copyright
story. The regulation ensures enough water flows downstream to Texas
as required by the compact between New Mexico, Texas and Colorado.
The regulation applies to other reservoirs in northern New Mexico,
but it most affects the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.
The Albuquerque-based district, which handles water for farmers
from Cochiti near Santa Fe to south of Socorro, built El Vado to
store irrigation water.
Chuck DuMars, an attorney for the conservancy district, said there
should be enough water in reservoirs to meet late-season irrigation
needs if cool weather delays the inevitable.
Farmers are benefiting from a warm March that melted snow early,
pushing El Vado to above-average levels on April 1.
However, flows in the Rio Grande are below average, and forecasts
expect just 75 percent of normal flow this year in the river through
The Rio Grande Compact defines a dry spell in terms of how much
water is stored in Elephant Butte Reservoir for delivery to Texas and
Mexico. Elephant Butte's levels hovered close to what would trip the
restriction, said Bert Cortez, who heads the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation's field division in El Paso, Texas.
Based on low flows into the reservoir and the amount of water
being released daily for irrigation, his staff's calculations suggest
water compact storage in Elephant Butte could reach the cutoff level
soon, triggering the restrictions on storage upstream.
This year's situation is better than last year's. In 2006, storage
restrictions were imposed on April 14 after an unusually dry winter.
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