Reclamation, MRGCD, and Corps Present the 2004 Middle Rio Grande Annual Operating Plan

Media Contact: Kim Greenwood, 505-462-3557

For Release: April 15, 2004

Water managers predict that with rotation and conservation a full irrigation season is possible for the six Middle Rio Grande pueblos and a potentially two-month shorter season for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District this year. River rafters on the Chama and Upper Rio Grande should have a fairly good year. Those who recreate at reservoirs in New Mexico will see decreasing water levels throughout the summer except at Abiquiu and Cochiti reservoirs, and New Mexico State Parks continues to adapt facilities so a pleasant experience can be had by all.

While the April storms have brought near record-level precipitation for the month to the State, the total runoff at Otowi gage on the main stem of the Rio Grande will still be less-than-average, at 73 percent. The Middle Rio Grande Project supplies water to the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the pueblos of Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Sandia and Isleta. The Upper Rio Grande corridor and the Rio Chama provide levels I-IV rafting for locals and a thriving tourist business.

At the end of the 2002 irrigation season, Elephant Butte Reservoir dipped below 400,000 acre-feet of storage for water deliveries to Texas; thereby, initiating Rio Grande Compact restrictions for storage in upstream reservoirs. New Mexico had overdelivered water to Texas in previous years and, therefore, had credit under the Compact in 2003. New Mexico entered into an agreement with Texas to use up to 217,500 acre-feet of that credit water in 2003, 2004 and 2005, so that water could be stored for MRGCD, City of Santa Fe and for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow. This year, Reclamation is storing water under that agreement and releases are anticipated to be up to 46,667 acre-feet for MRGCD and 20,000 acre-feet for the silvery minnow.

This year, MRGCD will have a total of about 55,300 acre-feet of water in storage at El Vado Reservoir to supplement the river flows for irrigation. This storage is expected to last through the end of August, at which time the monsoon rains could provide water for MRGCD farmers through the end of October. If the monsoon rains do not develop, MRGCD's irrigation season is expected to end in late-August.

For the minnow, Reclamation anticipates having between 48,900 and 52,900 acre-feet of water available this year to supplement river flows for the silvery minnow to meet the 2003 Biological Opinion required water flows. This water, being stored in El Vado and Abiquiu Reservoir, consists of leased and credit waters.

Reclamation expects to divert about 100,000 acre-feet of water through the San Juan-Chama Project, thereby, allocating full supplies to the contractors this year. Contractors either store their water in El Vado and Abiquiu reservoirs, lease the water to Reclamation for the silvery minnow, or use the water to offset pumping depletions.

The general public should be aware of rising and fluctuating water levels within the Rio Grande and the reservoirs during the irrigation season.

This year's April 1 st spring runoff forecast into Elephant Butte Reservoir is 67 percent of normal, which is the best runoff forecast since 1998. Even with the likelihood of better runoff conditions than last year, Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs will remain at very low storage levels throughout the year. Seven of the last eight years (1996-2003), Rio Grande spring runoffs from snowmelt have resulted in below normal runoff volumes into Elephant Butte Reservoir. Consequently, the storage level at Elephant Butte Reservoir has dropped dramatically.

El Vado Reservoir started the year with about 30,000 acre-feet of water, is expected to peak at about 125,000 acre-feet this summer, and end the year with about 65,000 acre-feet.

Heron Reservoir started the year with about 120,000 acre-feet, could dip to about 75,000 acre-feet this Spring, and will end the year at about 165,000 acre-feet.

The Abiquiu Reservoir, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facility, started the year with about 75,000 acre-feet, could peak in early summer at 170,000 acre-feet, and end the year at 125,000 acre-feet.

Cochiti Reservoir, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facility, should remain at about 50,000 acre-feet throughout the year. Peak discharge from the dam could be as high as 4,000 cfs in early June, depending on climatic conditions.

A public meeting detailing anticipated 2004 water operations along the Middle Rio Grande is being held tonight at 6 p.m. at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center located at 2401 12 th St. NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico. The presentation will cover: The process for determining the Annual Operating Plan for water operations;

Review of 2003 water forecast, predictions and reality:

  • Review of 2003 water storage and release for the Rio Grande Compact, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the Rio Grande silvery minnow
  • 2004 water forecast and predictions
  • 2004 potential for water storage and release
  • 2004 impacts to water-related recreation
The audiences' questions concerning the Middle Rio Grande Annual Operating Plan will be addressed at the meeting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be available to answer questions as well.

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