NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – It’s no secret: New Mexico’s rivers and streams are experiencing high flows. Some are even seeing close to five times the amount of water they saw last year.
This spring, water watchers knew high flows were coming. Late-season snowfall in key mountain ranges meant there was a buildup of stored water. The U.S. Department of Agriculture called the situation “dramatically improved” compared to 2022.
Last year, much of New Mexico was in drought for much of the year. Historical data shows that in 2022, more than 50% of the land in New Mexico reached “exceptional drought” for a brief period. And in 2021, more than half the state was in “exceptional drought” for a prolonged period. Now, things are looking different.
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Over the years, New Mexico has swung in and out of drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, courtesy of NDMC.
As of May 18, less than 1% of the state is in “exceptional drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That’s only in the northeast corner of the state.
And rivers are flowing high and fast in New Mexico. In Albuquerque, the Rio Grande has been about one and a half feet higher than last year for much of May. And it’s been flowing nearly five times as fast.
That’s according to data from the United States Geological Survey. They monitor water levels across the nation.
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Many New Mexico rivers are seeing higher flow rates than this time last year.
Their data shows that it’s not just the Rio Grande that’s flowing fast. The Pecos River, near Pecos, New Mexico is flowing at a rate of about 450 cubic feet per second. That means enough water to fill an Olympic swimming pool passes by every three seconds or so.
Rio Chama, above Chama, New Mexico has been flowing at about four times the rate it experienced in 2022. An Olympic swimming pool passes by about every one and a half seconds.
Smaller rivers are seeing increased flow as well. The Santa Fe river, which feeds into Cochiti Lake, slowed to barely a trickle last spring. This year, snowmelt from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains has boosted the river’s flow to between 30 and 40 cubic feet per second.
As a result, Cochiti Lake is already seeing flooding with water 30 feet higher than normal. And officials say the lake could rise even more in the coming week. For more on the impact at Cochiti Lake, check out this KRQE News 13 story.