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Water Swap authorized to help irrigators along the Rio Grande

Reclamation signs agreement with Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to make water in Abiquiu Reservoir immediately available for MRGCD use

Media Contact: Upper Colorado Basin Region Public Affairs
For Release: Jul 25, 2023
Photo courtesy of Heron Lake State Park Photo courtesy of Heron Lake State Park

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.--Water managers signed an agreement last week to transfer up to 30,900 acre-feet of water stored in Abiquiu Reservoir for Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority to Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and Reclamation, making it available for immediate use. This will be exchanged with a corresponding amount of MRGCD and Reclamation-leased water currently held in Heron Reservoir further north.

The agreement between Reclamation, the Water Authority and the MRGCD to “swap water” is needed because of the inability to convey water downstream from Heron Reservoir due to construction activity at El Vado Dam, which water from Heron must move through on its way south.

Reclamation manages the reservoirs and other infrastructure associated with the San Juan-Chama Project, which provides surface water for use by New Mexico communities and water agencies. The Water Authority, which has plenty of additional water in Abiquiu for Albuquerque’s use this year, will be able to access the exchanged water in Heron at a later date.

“This agreement means that MRGCD can keep sending water down the Rio Grande in August for the use of irrigators, and also for the benefit of the riparian ecosystem and the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow,” said MRGCD Chief Operating Officer Eric Zamora.

“Reclamation appreciates our continued partnership with the Water Authority and their willingness to problem-solve and partner on water management for the Middle Rio Grande,” said Jennifer Faler, Area Manager for Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Office.

Chairman of the Water Authority’s governing board, Eric C. Olivas, said the water exchange agreement is a good example of interagency cooperation in the Middle Rio Grande.

“The Water Authority supports arrangements like this that are beneficial to everyone who relies on San Juan-Chama water in the Middle Rio Grande,” said Olivas. “We’re glad we could be part of a solution that helps farmers and the river.”

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. 


The Bureau of Reclamation is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior and is the nation's largest wholesale water supplier and second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Our facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation opportunities, and environmental benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR; Facebook @bureau.of.reclamation; LinkedIn @Bureau of Reclamation; Instagram @bureau_of_reclamation; and YouTube @reclamation.

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