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Balmorhea Project History (45 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits


General Description

The Balmorhea Project furnishes a supplemental irrigation water supply to 10,608 irrigable acres within the Reeves County Water Improvement District No.1 that extends 4 miles north and 11 miles south of Balmorhea, Texas. This area is on both sides of Toyah Creek, which flows northeasterly into the Pecos River. The district facilities were originally developed by private interests.

Bureau features have included the acquisition of Phantom Lake Spring, construction of Phantom Lake Canal and Inlet Feeder Canal, and the reconstruction of Madera Diversion Dam.

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The Government purchased the water rights to all flow from Phantom Lake Spring in excess of 3,262 acre feet per year. The previous owners of the water rights retained the right of diverting up to 7 cubic feet per second, limited to the 3,262 acre feet per year, for private use. Water from the spring is conveyed by Phantom Lake Canal to the district`s Main Canal near San Solomon Spring. Some spring water is delivered directly to the distribution system and some is delivered through the Inlet Feeder Canal to Lower Parks Reservoir. The distribution system was constructed by private interests during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Facility Descriptions

Phantom Lake Canal

The Phantom Lake Canal extends 4.2 miles from Phantom Lake Spring to the District Main Canal in the vicinity of San Solomon Spring. The canal is concrete lined and has a capacity of 25 cubic feet per second

Inlet Feeder Canal

The Inlet Feeder Canal extends 2.8 miles from the main canal of the Reeves County Water Improvement District No.1 to the Lower Parks Reservoir. This canal is concrete lined, and has a capacity of 100 cubic feet per second.

Madera Diversion Dam

Repairs were made by the Bureau of Reclamation on this dam, which was built originally by local irrigators. The repairs included placing rubble mortar masonry near the right abutment, installing new gates on the headworks, replacing concrete paving and the stilling pool below the gates, channel grading above and below the dam, and constructing two dikes. The concrete weir dam is 13 feet high and has a crest length of 950 feet.

Operating Agencies

The project is operated by the Reeves County Water Improvement District No.1.

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The project area is part of a broad expanse of plains intersected by widely separated mountain ranges and stream channels, most of which are dry for long periods every year. This region has been used almost entirely for production of cattle and sheep, but contains small irrigated areas that produce feeds for livestock.

Irrigation in the Madera Valley dates back to 1870, when vegetables and feed crops were produced for troops and livestock at nearby Fort Davis. After 1880, irrigation expanded rapidly, but reached its peak in 1909 when the area to be irrigated exceeded the water supply. In 1909, the Toyah Valley Irrigation Company was organized by consolidating several small, active canal systems. The local irrigators reorganized in 1914-15 under the name of the Reeves County Irrigation District, which was changed to the Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 1 in 1917. Local interests constructed the Lower Parks Reservoir in 1917. The Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 1 constructed the Madera Diversion Dam across Madera Creek near Toyahvale to augment its water supply. The district's primary source of water is the San Solomon Spring and the smaller Griffen, Saragosa, and West Sandia Springs. The district also makes a small diversion at the Saragosa Diversion from Toyah Creek


During World War II when food supplies became critical, the Bureau of Reclamation was requested to improve the water supply on the project lands to provide increased production. Investigations revealed that this could he accomplished in a relatively short time without the use of large quantities of critical materials.


The project was authorized by the President on April 15, 1944, under the Water Conservation and Utilization Program (act of August 11, 1939, 53 Stat. 1418, as amended).


Construction of additional facilities and the reconstruction of Madera Diversion Dam were started in August 1946 and completed in 1947. The first water from the additional facilities was delivered on June 12, 1947.

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Principal crops are cotton, alfalfa, pasture, oats, and barley.

Endangered Species

Phantom Lake Springs supports two federally listed endangered fish species, the Comanche Springs pupfish and the Pecos gambusia. In recent years, flows from Phantom Lake Spring have declined seriously as a result of extended drought conditions and groundwater withdrawals in the surrounding area. In 1993, Reclamation constructed a refugia next to the spring to provide additional habitat and protection for these and other species. This small wetlands has resulted in an increased use of the area by a wide variety of native wildlife.

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Last updated: Dec 07, 2009