According to measurements from July 21st, the water flow is about as weak as it’s ever been over the past fifty years. “Given the drought conditions that we have and the current water situation that it’s very likely that we’re going to see drying on the Rio Grande through the Albuquerque area if we don’t receive rain soon,” says Jason Casuga, CEO and chief engineer for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD). Casuga says because of weak snowpack and lack of rain, they can’t release water from the reservoirs upstream like Cochiti.
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A couple of other factors are also working to prevent the usual late summer water release: work on the dam at El Vado near Chama and obligations to Texas downstream under an interstate water compact. “New Mexico has underdelivered in that agreement over the last couple of years so we are actually in a debt status to Texas and we ended 2021 approximately 127,000-acre feed in debt,” Casuga says.
Elephant Butte Lake is only half as full as it was three months ago—its water level dropping about 20 feet. The river in the Albuquerque area has not gone dry since the 1980s.
Federal measurements taken Thursday show the average water depth around the Central bridge is two feet. The MRGCD says it hopes the rehabilitation work at El Vado Dam will allow water storage for late summer water releases by 2024.