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Reduced El Vado water releases expected

Weekend summer rafting flows on the Rio Chama on hold

Media Contact: UCB Public Affairs Office
For Release: Jul 14, 2023
Cleaning debris in El Vado Dam’s outlet works Cleaning debris in El Vado Dam’s outlet works

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Previously planned support of weekend summer rafting flows from El Vado Reservoir is on hold as the low reservoir levels required for construction ongoing at El Vado Dam have contributed to increased debris in the dam’s outlet works, impacting the amount of water that can be safely released from the facility. 

“Supporting weekend summer rafting flows from El Vado Reservoir has been an important secondary benefit to recreationists as we work with our partners to meet our primary mission of storing and releasing water for use by irrigators downstream and San Juan-Chama Project contractors,” said Water Management Division Manager Yvette McKenna from Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Office. 

In the April annual operating plan, Reclamation announced plans to bypass Rio Chama flows through El Vado during construction at the El Vado Dam and move San Juan-Chama Project water, stored in Heron Reservoir, down the Rio Chama to support weekend summer rafting flows while meeting Middle Valley demands. However, due to the current situation with debris accumulating in the outlet works, which are the structures used for the withdrawal of water from the reservoir, Heron releases are also being affected and higher releases required for rafting flows cannot be met. Friday, July 7, was the first (weekend) day that releases of only about 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) could be made, rather than the planned 550-600 cfs. Releases from El Vado Friday, July 14, were about 200 cfs. 

“Right now, keeping El Vado Reservoir at a stable, low water elevation to ensure that progress continues on the repairs to meet safety of dams requirements is of utmost importance. This has been challenging given that we’ve had an above-average runoff in the basin,” said Albuquerque Area Office Manager Jennifer Faler. 

Reclamation is working with local and area office staff and contractors to address the situation and mitigate the blockage to the extent possible and will continue to communicate with our water customers and stakeholders conditions change. 

Modifications to El Vado Dam are being made to ensure the continued structural stability of the facility which provides irrigation water for the Middle Rio Grande Valley including six Pueblos. The first phase of construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. The second phase of construction, which includes replacement of the spillway and bridge next to the dam, is scheduled to begin in 2025.The highway over the dam will be closed during phase two of construction. 

For more information about Albuquerque Area Office’s water operations, visit  


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