Thursday, July 28, 2022

‘Status quo is not an option’ for Rio Grande

The Rio Grande is drying in Albuquerque, which hasn’t happened in nearly four decades. New Mexico water officials point to legal issues with Texas, extreme drought and a changing climate, thirsty vegetation and a resistance to using less water as some reasons behind the current situation. The experts encouraged state lawmakers at Tuesday’s Water and Natural Resources Committee meeting to act with a “sense of urgency.” State Engineer Mike Hamman said limited supply will likely prompt more state enforcement of water rights. “We’ll be looking at a more active metering program,” he said. New Mexico must deliver a certain amount of river water each year to Elephant Butte Reservoir under the Rio Grande Compact. At the end of 2021, the state owed more than 127,000 acre-feet – 41 billion gallons – of water to downstream users. Some of that debt is from a 2020 agreement when Texas and Colorado agreed to let New Mexico release more water from El Vado Reservoir in the summer to keep the river wet in the middle valley. But the state now faces storage restrictions because of the compact debt and El Vado reconstruction. There is little to no river water left for central New Mexico. The state is on track to hit a 200,000 acre-foot debt. Reaching that threshold would put the state officially out of compact compliance...MORE

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