Elephant Butte locals, state lawmaker want changes in water management

New Mexico News

ELEPHANT BUTTE, N.M. (KRQE) – This has been a tough year for our state’s water flow. Officials blame a severe drought for the problem but local conservationists and a state lawmaker are calling it a water management problem.

A line of cars and boats made their presence known early Saturday morning in the small city of Elephant Butte. They’re trying to get people’s attention about our state’s water levels. “Save our lakes,” yelled a woman from the rally.

Which as was seen from Sky News 13 last month, the lake at Elephant Butte is at a dim 11% capacity, which is down 26% from last year. And by the time they start using the water for irrigation for the farms in Southern New Mexico and West Texas, officials said that number could go as low as 3%. “We are experiencing a crisis here,” said the President of Lago Rico, Neal Brown.

The Bureau of Reclamation has said a severe drought is the reason behind the low levels but locals said there are other ways to get more water into our lakes, rivers, and streams. “We’ve got to go up in the watershed and we’ve got to do vegetation management up there,” said the Conservation Director for New Mexico Bass Nation, Earl Conway. “Everything from getting rid of the salt cedar, Russian olives [tree] along the river. To the old cottonwood grove in the middle of town in Albuquerque along the ditches.”

“We need to clean up the middle Rio Grande’s irrigation system,” said the President of Lago Rico, Neal Brown. “We need to have more monitoring stations, better accountability for what’s going on there.” So they’re calling on the feds and the state to take action.

“We need to better manage our watershed, our forest, getting rid of non-native species,” said Rep. Rebecca Dow (R- Truth or Consequences). “We need to get together to talk about using COVID money for infrastructure in our ditches and our dams.”

News 13 is told that once irrigation season starts, about 50 feet will drop from Elephant Butte Lake. Locals said that would make it around 12 feet deep at the base of the dam. News 13 reached out to the Bureau of Reclamation for a response to the rally but have not heard back.

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