Total reservoir storage on the Rio Grande in New Mexico at the end of August was the lowest it’s been since at least 1980.
longer (with graphs!)
In our University of New Mexico Water Resources Program class, we’ve been discussing the state of the Rio Grande in real time. This feels like a remarkable moment, for teaching.
The water managers down on New Mexico’s Lower Rio Grande have made the conscious decision to essentially drain Elephant Butte Reservoir – the primary source of surface water supplies for farmers in the Hatch and Mesilla valleys. Elephant Butte, a 2 million acre foot reservoir, ended August with just 85,000 acre feet of water, something like 4 percent of capacity. That’s the lowest it’s been at this point in the year since 1972.
Simultaneously, we’ve made a similar decision upstream – draining Abiquiu, El Vado, and Heron reservoirs on the Rio Chama in order to continue deliveries to farmers in this part of the state, with some water devoted to instream flows for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow.
We essentially manage the two parts of the system separately, but I was wondering what it would look like if we looked at them together:
The US Bureau of Reclamation datasets available on a Sunday afternoon lack the necessary detail prior to 1980 for some of the reservoirs, so that’s as far back as the graph goes.
We’re draining these things and hoping for a wet winter.