(Santa Fe, NM) – Scott Verhines, the New Mexico State Engineer and Rio Grande Compact Commissioner for New Mexico, will allocate 20,000 acre feet of water to the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) to protect farmers, water users and our environment during the continued drought.
New Mexico is entering the third drought year in a row. El Vado Reservoir is almost empty and storage restrictions determined by the Rio Grande Compact are in effect. These conditions place great stress on the entire Rio Grande corridor. New Mexico is currently working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to secure an agreement for storing the allocated water in El Vado Reservoir. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District will then be able to store water in El Vado when river flows are sufficient and release it later in the summer to support our farmer’s irrigation needs.
“We recognize the importance of MRGCD having about 80,000 acre-feet of water in storage to meet farmer’s irrigation needs this summer. The allocation of 20,000 acre feet of water to MRGCD will help provide water to farmers through August,” said State Engineer Verhines. “This water supports the goal of meeting flow targets for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow and assists the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s surface water diversion operations.”
The New Mexico Compact Commissioner Scott Verhines will consider providing the MRGCD an additional amount of water later this spring depending upon the drought status at that time. The 20,000 acre feet currently allocated to MRGCD was generated by New Mexico’s past over-deliveries of water to Texas under the Rio Grande Compact.
“Our goal is to keep our communities intact. We are working with water users statewide to stretch a limited supply of water as far as possible during this third year of drought,” said Interstate Stream Commission Director Estevan López.
The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission is taking numerous actions statewide to mitigate continuing drought conditions where possible. The Elephant Butte pilot channel is maintained in part by the Interstate Stream Commission saving about 20,000 acre-feet of water per year. The water saved in the pilot channel supports New Mexicans living near and south of Elephant Butte Reservoir. Additionally, the NMOSE and the NMISC work with northern New Mexico acequias on the Rio Chama to craft a water sharing agreement allowing farmers to use the natural river flows while still protecting San Juan Chama water destined for the middle Rio Grande.
The Office of the State Engineer is charged with administering the state's water resources. The State Engineer has power over the supervision, measurement, appropriation, and distribution of all surface and groundwater in New Mexico, including streams and rivers that cross state boundaries. The State Engineer is also Secretary of the Interstate Stream Commission and oversees its staff.