New Mexico’s 2015 San Juan-Chama Project allocation goes up

Our remarkably rainy spring and summer in New Mexico and southern Colorado has increased the allocation of San Juan-Chama Project water, which brings some of New Mexico’s Colorado River Basin water to the central part of the state. After a bad start to the year, flows have been above average basically continuously since the first of May:

San Juan-Chama Project flows

San Juan-Chama Project flows

The mid-June allocation was just half of a normal year supply, but that’s been steadily rising, and now is up to 85 percent, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. And that’s based on what we’ve got now. With the rainy season underway, that could continue rising, with 90 to 95 percent looking like a real possibility. That’s still a shortfall, for only the second time in the project’s 40 years history. But less of a shortfall, but by a significant margin, than water managers had feared.

The water provides supply to Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Both cities have buffers so a shortfall in any one year doesn’t have an immediate effect.

For context for those in other parts of the “greater” Colorado River Basin (those places that use Colorado River water, whether they’re in the actual physical basin or not), the total San Juan-Chama Project allocation is less than 1 percent of the basin’s human water use. It’s one of those crazy-sounding projects we did back in the day to move water long distances from where the rivers are to where the people live, with three dams in San Juan Mountain headwaters in Colorado diverting water through 27 miles of concrete-lined tunnels beneath the continental divide.



  1. And I should also say that I have great respect for the original engineers and planners for getting that project done. It seems crazy-sounding but nowadays it’s more like crazy-like-a-fox sounding.

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