Something Else I Wrote Elsewhere: Supplementing the River

Also from this morning’s paper, a story documenting Albuquerque’s 60th consecutive day without measurable precipitation. We’ve got an outside chance of breaking the streak this evening, and then again mid-week. But the forecasts are basically bleak.

But the real import was tucked in near the end of the story (sub/ad req):

Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last week began releasing supplemental water currently in storage in Abiquiu Reservoir to ensure there is enough water in the Rio Grande to keep the river’s population of endangered Rio Grande silvery minnows alive.

Warm weather and a meager snowpack, along with early irrigation by farmers because of the dry weather, are driving the need for supplemental water for environmental flows, said Leann Towne, head of water operations for the bureau’s Albuquerque office. The bureau has water in storage at Abiquiu that was imported from the San Juan Basin via the San Juan-Chama Project and is available to supplement Rio Grande flows, to help the endangered fish. This is unusually early in the year to see the extra water needed, according to Towne.

Lissa and I were down at the river yesterday morning scouting out a nesting great-horned owl. Cute little fluffy white baby. Did I mention cute?

On the way back, we stuck our heads through a break in the bank to look at the river itself, which is remarkably low. A pair of killdeer were hanging out on sand flats in the middle of the river, calling. I don’t usually see them there. They tend to like shallow, slow water, which doesn’t usually describe the Rio Grande as the snowmelt rises this time of year. But the snowmelt isn’t rising.

This is a big deal – having to use imported Colorado Basin water this early in the year to keep the Rio Grande wet.


  1. My intro class measured discharge on the Florida River (tributary of the Animas) last week. It was the lowest I’ve seen it in March. (Though the high country meltwater is stored in a reservoir upstream, there’s usually a lot of snow melting between 5000 and 9000 feet at this time of year. Not this year – snow’s gone below 7000 feet at least, probably higher. The elk have gone back to the high country, the mountain bike trails are dry, and the town’s starting to worry about a fire year like 2002.)

  2. Kim –

    It’s great that you get your students out to measure. Make it tangible!

    The water people down here I talk to have been staring at the snotel numbers with increasing dread. They’ve been dropping like a rock the past three weeks or so with the dry, warm winds, and the rivers haven’t been coming up at all.

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