Despite drought, farmers on central New Mexico’s Rio Grande looking at a full water supply this year

Albuquerque's Rio Grande drinking water diversion dam

Albuquerque’s Rio Grande drinking water diversion dam

Some remarkable news today out of the regular meeting of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board: despite the nth* year of drought, the district’s farmers are likely to get a full irrigation season again this year, according to a report this afternoon from district hydrologist David Gensler.

The forecast is for 60 percent runoff on this stretch of the river (give or take the weather, 60 percent is the midpoint with uncertainty in either direction depending on whether it’s wet or not from here on out), but with some storage cobbled together in upstream dams and some tight management of the system, the irrigators who grow alfalfa and corn and chiles and the like in the valley should get a full supply, Gensler told the board.

Gensler’s tally of water stored behind upstream dams needed to achieve this goal was a hilarious litany of the opportunities and constraints of the institutional water management – you’ve got your Rio Grande Compact Article VII water, your Emergency Drought Water Agreement Water, your “native Rio Grande” storage, your relinquishment credit storage, your San Juan-Chama Project water storage, and I hope I’m not double-counting here.

There’s also a move afoot here to stash away a bit of extra water and use it to help provide a spawning pulse for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow. This is good because, as I’ve mentioned before, our successful adaptation to water scarcity on the Middle Rio Grande has not yet extended to nature.

* where n is maybe 15 out of the last 17?

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