Stuff I Wrote Elsewhere: Rafting on Drinking Water

May 10, 2011 NM Drought Monitor

May 10, 2011 NM Drought Monitor

How dry is it this year in New Mexico? So dry that rafters on the Rio Chama will have to use spare drinking water, pumped through the system weekends this spring and summer, for their fun. From Friday’s ABQJournal (sub/ad req, I think):

Albuquerque has to move its water supplies down the Rio Chama sometime, so why not do it on the weekends, when it can help river runners?

That is the gist of an agreement announced Thursday between the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and federal agencies that manage the river.

The water, imported to the Rio Grande Basin from the headwaters of the San Juan-Chama Project, currently sits in storage in high mountain reservoirs. Eventually, the water utility would release it for use in the city’s new drinking water system.

The new operations plan merely calls for its release sooner, allowing it to flow down a stretch of the Chama that has been designated a “Wild and Scenic River” and is popular with recreational boaters.

Karl Moffatt offered up a more detailed look at the river recreation picture in Friday’s New Mexican:

White-water thrill seekers will be lucky to see a high-water rafting season this year because of below-average snowpack and a lack of real runoff.

Complicating matters are the ongoing drought, low soil moisture conditions, warm, windy weather and a storm-stingy La Niña pattern.

“It looks like it’ll be poor runoff season for rafting,” says Wayne Sleep of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Albuquerque, which monitors snowpack and other water conditions. “The snowpack is melting, but it’s just not making it to the streams.”