Stuff I Wrote Elsewhere: Parched Rio Grande

The Rio Grande at Albuquerque’s Central Avenue bridge dropped to 200 cubic feet per second overnight, perfect timing for this morning’s newspaper piece about low flows on the river (sub/ad req). For those not versed in our obscure ways of water measurement, “200 cfs” translates roughly as “awful damn low”:

Water agencies are scrambling to find enough water to keep the Rio Grande wet through Albuquerque after the river dropped last week to its lowest level in six years.

The discussions reflect a new reality on the middle Rio Grande, as the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority diverts increasing amounts of water from the river to provide drinking water for the metro area.

This is the sort of problem that exposes the weaknesses in New Mexico’s water accounting and management practices, about which I’ll have much more to say.


  1. So what’s their plan to deal with the long-term drying trend? I’m reminded of this point since for an unrelated reason I happened to be looking at Asmerom et al. this morning.

  2. Steve – Great question. Like most folks in the West, no real plan other than the invocation of the doctrine of prior appropriation. Which New Mexico, especially on this stretch of the Rio Grande, does a particularly poor job of implementing.

  3. The “plans” that I have seen and worked on are basically ‘hope for more rain’ and often ‘try to figure out how to incentivize and educate folks to use less without raising rates too much’. Which are, of course, not really planning.. Here we just celebrated our latest water project, IIRC $638M for 10,000 af. No word on whether human population growth will slow in the area.



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