Changes in Rio Grande Flows

Media Contact: Mary Perea Carlson, 505-462-3576

For Release: July 03, 2013

As of July 2, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District exhausted its water stored in reservoirs on the Rio Chama. Flows in the Middle Rio Grande are now primarily comprised of federal supplemental water leased for the Rio Grande silvery minnow and water released from El Vado Dam to supplement the meager natural flows for irrigation of the six Middle Rio Grande Pueblos' Prior and Paramount lands.

The water in the river below Cochiti Dam is either water Reclamation leased specifically to maintain flows below diversion dams for the silvery minnow or irrigation water for the Pueblos. The only water that the MRGCD can divert and deliver to its non-Pueblo farmers are native flows occurring due to rain or water remaining after the minnow and Pueblo needs are satisfied.

"We are now up to 36 months of consecutive drought. It's the driest three-year period on record for much of New Mexico. Reclamation is focused on working closely with the Pueblos and MRGCD to ensure that the water in the river is reaching its intended destinations," said Albuquerque Area Manager Mike Hamman. "It is critical to all water users that the small populations of silvery minnow are maintained through the summer in order for us to meet our commitments under the Endangered Species Act."

Reclamation and other water management agencies are operating under an emergency management plan developed by the Minnow Action Team, which was formed under the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program. This plan allows for earlier than usual drying of parts of the river as well as deviation from target flows normally required under the 2003 Biological Opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The intent is to stretch out supplemental water and deliver limited amounts to key areas that provide refugial habitat to the silvery minnow.

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