ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Water is so short in the Rio Grande some or all irrigators could find themselves cut off if stored supplies run out, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District warned Tuesday.
The spring runoff has been less than the already low forecasts, and 1/3 of that flow is being lost to evaporation, earlier irrigation upstream and the lack of spring rains, according to the district.
"We may have to begin releasing water from storage at El Vado Reservoir six weeks earlier than normal," MRGCD Hydrologist David Gensler said in a statement released by the district. "This could result in the district exhausting its stored water by mid-August."
El Vado Lake is on the Rio Chama in northwestern Sandoval County and feeds into the Rio Grande at Española
District directors have said water will be delivered in strict accordance with priority rights. Staff also has been told work with irrigators on conservation measures.
With luck, conservation and rain, water supplies may be stretched to supply all irrigators, Gensler said.
But should extreme conservation measures be needed, the first to be cut off would be Water Bank users followed by nonpueblo irrigators and then pueblo farmers.
And if the district drains its stored supply, the natural flow of the Rio Grande still could be diverted to canal systems although it may not be sufficient to supply all, and perhaps none, of the irrigators, according to the district.
Many farmers have irrigation wells they can use although that drives up the costs of production eroding or erasing profits.
The conservancy district supplies water to about 70,000 acres of cropland along 150 miles of the Rio Grande from Cochiti Pueblo on the north to the northern bounday of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro County.
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