ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Rio Grande through the metro might catch your eye in the coming days with higher water levels that are expected to continue increasing. Stored water is now being released from Cochiti and Abiquiu reservoirs, and it’s a lot more than usual.
“You’ll see a big broad brown stretch. It’s already a lot of the way up there now. It’s going to continue to rise through the day today,” explained John Fleck, Water Policy Researcher.
If you’re used to walking on the banks of the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, you might not be able to go as far as usual. Water levels have almost doubled within the last 24 hours, thanks to stored water being released.
“After being able to go play on the sandbars, throw sticks to your dog in the river, you’re not going to be able to do that anymore. The river will be all the way out to the riverbanks through Albuquerque,” Fleck.
With the end of the Middle Rio Grande’s irrigation season, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is now releasing water from Cochiti and Abiquiu dams. More water was stored this year resulting in higher-than-average flows coming downstream, heading to Elephant Butte.
“Flows below Cochiti Dam went from about 300 cubic feet per second yesterday to 1,300 cubic feet per second today, so that’s like a 400-percent increase in river flows,” stated Anne Marken, with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD).
The dams store water for flood control purposes, but by law, it eventually has to be released to meet Rio Grande compact deliveries to southern New Mexico and Texas. People in Albuquerque can expect to see the river changing through the weekend with elevated flows lasting through mid-December.
“I think we should all remember how lucky we are in Albuquerque to have a river in our midst that we so love, and we should welcome it back,” commented Fleck.
The extra water in Cochiti and Abiquiu reservoirs this year is due to a large spring runoff. Were it not held back, MRGCD said the water would have likely flooded some downstream communities.