ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Many are starting to get ready for the possibility of a dry Rio Grande in Albuquerque and nearby areas like Socorro for the first time since the 1980s. Right now the river is full and is facing its peak flow due to early runoff from the mountains.
“When all you have is a farm, you know, it’s going to be difficult for a lot of people,” said Chris Lopez, a farmer in Socorro, N.M.
The river has long been a source of water for farmers along its banks but officials say that it will make it harder for them. “I wish I had better news for the middle valley. But what that means for irrigators, along with anybody that enjoys the river, is if we don’t get rain, this summer is going to be an extremely difficult summer, where we likely see large sections of the river drying,” said Jason Casuga, chief engineer for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.
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The early runoff has a lot contributing to it including a dry winter, hotter temperatures, the current drought, and intense winds that blow dust on the snowpack making it melt and flow faster.
Last year many were lucky. “You know, we were kind of in the same situation last year. And then we got the early monsoons,” said Lopez.
Now some farmers will be okay because they have been preparing, while others won’t be so lucky. “I actually have a retirement that’s, you know, that I could fall back on but most farmers don’t have that,” said Lopez.
Officials say this could carry on for the few years. “If moisture doesn’t turn around, without our dams functioning, or El Vado dam to be able to store water right now. And the state of our compact, that Texas, it’s going to be a tough two or three years,” said Casuga.
The state engineer’s office says 70 percent of the Rio Grande’s water is used right here in the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. 60 percent of that Rio Grande water is used for irrigation.