Opening the gates on the 2024 irrigation season in New Mexico’s Middle Rio Grande Valley

Irrigation ditch flanked by bare dirt roads and trees with no leaves. A small amount of brown water in the ditch.

First water in the Duranes Lateral, Albuquerque, New Mexico, March 2023

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District’s crews will usher the first water into the ditches of New Mexico’s middle valley Feb. 26, district Water Distribution Division Manager Matt Martinez told the district’s board at yesterday afternoon’s meeting.

The early water doesn’t go to irrigators right away. It’s needed to “charge” the system, wetting earthen ditches closely connected to the shallow aquifer, testing out the plumbing, finding any problem spots in the distribution system before the first water is diverted to yards, gardens, and crops later in March. Think of it as the middle valley irrigation equivalent of spring training baseball’s “pitchers and catchers report.”

What’s great about the baseball metaphor is the nervous optimism found in both.

Spring training is a time of optimism, the start of a great becoming that’s going to unfold over the coming spring, summer and fall – stiff arms, leafless trees, muddy ditchbank roads, a snowpack building but not yet subject to the vicissitudes of New Mexico’s warm April winds.

Pitchers and catchers can practice their rhythms, getting the signs down, working on the new breaking ball, clearing out the tumbleweeds that accumulated over the winter.

I love first water in the valley.

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