“It’s been a hot summer, and the spring runoff is gone, and you’re seeing a river section that doesn’t have access to the infrastructure that we normally store water in for late seasons like this.”
Jason Casuga, the CEO and Chief Engineer for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, said while a lack of rain is partly to blame for a nearly dry river, the closure of a northern New Mexico Dam is playing the biggest role.
“El Vado Dam being an important piece of infrastructure that allows us to store water to be used late in the season, like now, when it’s really hot to kind of carry us to the winter, and we don’t have access to that key piece of infrastructure right now,” Casuga explained.
The dam, just south of Chama, closed for repairs and won’t reopen for another couple of years. Casuga said, until it’s fixed, there’s a good chance this could be the new normal in the metro area.
“I do believe that we’re going to get to experience a more natural version of the Rio Grande than most middle valley New Mexicans have experienced in their lifetime, and I think that’s important to remember this is what the natural Rio Grande was.”
While a dry Rio Grande is not usually the case in Albuquerque, it sure is for other parts of the state.
“There are sections of the Rio Grande, south of Socorro, that dry every year and have dried every year for my lifetime and my grandparents’ lifetime,” Casuga commented.
For now, he said there’s hope the little water left will stay for the season.
“I don’t think praying for rain is a bad thing cause, really, we need it. That’s what we’re going to need to rely on right now to get through the end of the season.”