News Release Archive

Water Levels Dropping at Elephant Butte

Media Contact: Mary Carlson, 505-462-3576, mcarlson@usbr.gov

For Release: July 29, 2016

ALBUQURQUE, NM – Extreme heat and lack of rain over the last month are contributing to declining water levels at Elephant Butte Reservoir as the end of the irrigation season nears.

Although the decline of water in the reservoir is common this time of year, current levels are lower than expected. The Bureau of Reclamation is coordinating with local recreation managers to ensure they are aware of water level projections so they can make decisions for safe recreation through the end of summer and into fall. If necessary, this would be the third time since 2004 that marinas had to be moved due to low water levels.

The pool elevation at Elephant Butte Reservoir is currently about 4,311 feet, 10 feet lower than this time last summer. As the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, El Paso County Water Improvement District Number One and Mexico continue to call for their water to complete this irrigation season, the water level could drop another 10 feet by mid-August. The Rio Grande Project which serves the two districts and Mexico, has not received a full project allocation in the last eight years.

“This spring and summer started out strong. We had a good runoff and thought we were set when monsoons appeared to move in last month. Unfortunately temperatures skyrocketed and the monsoons have not been much help. This has set us back as far as the water levels at most reservoirs in New Mexico, including Elephant Butte,” said Jennifer Faler, Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Manager. “But the good news is the largest reservoir in New Mexico still has enough water to provide good recreation for the remainder of the season.”

Hydrologists and specialized modelers with Reclamation and its partners have been coordinating to ensure the most recent and accurate information is being used to model the water supply as we head into August. The irrigation season is scheduled to end in September.

"The lake goes up and down every year and it has certainly been lower,” said Neal Brown, owner of Lago Rico Inc., the operator of the marinas and the Historic Damsite Area at Elephant Butte. “This year we will still have plenty of water to enjoy. The marinas will still be here to help those who want to enjoy the lake with boat rentals and gas and groceries. And for what it’s worth, a lot of us enjoy seeing the change."

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