Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rio Grande project aims to channel more runoff

With much of New Mexico still stuck in severe drought, water managers are improving miles of channel along the Rio Grande so more winter and spring runoff can find its way to Elephant Butte Reservoir. Officials with the Interstate Stream Commission said Friday that maintenance of the 20-mile-long channel is key to getting more water to downstream users. It's estimated that the channel saves between 10,000 and 20,000 acre-feet of water per year. "This is roughly equivalent to the amount of water consumed by 4,500 to 9,500 acres of middle valley farmland, annually. That's a lot of water for our irrigators and other users," said Commission Director Estevan Lopez. The channel is an engineered pathway that cuts through the dry portion on the upper end of the reservoir. Without significant natural flows, the channel can get clogged with vegetation if not maintained. And as the reservoir level drops due to drought, the channel has to be extended to keep the river and reservoir connected. This year is no exception. Reservoirs around New Mexico have missed out on replenishment thanks to back-to-back years of La Nina weather patterns that have pushed much needed moisture away from the state. In fact, New Mexico received less than two-thirds of its normal precipitation through September...more

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