News Release Archive

Elephant Butte Dam Turns 100

Media Contact: Mary Carlson, 505-462-3576,
Marlon Duke, 385-228-4845,

For Release: October 19, 2016

Elephant Butte Dam in southern New Mexico
Elephant Butte Dam in southern New Mexico
Elephant Butte, N.M. – The Bureau of Reclamation today celebrated 100 years since the completion of Elephant Butte Dam in southern New Mexico. Officials from Reclamation, the International Boundary and Water Commission, State of New Mexico, New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation, Elephant Butte Irrigation District and El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 marked the event during a ceremony near the base of the dam. A highlight of the event was when officials unveiled a new plaque commemorating Elephant Butte’s 100 years of operation.

“Elephant Butte Dam is meeting its mission superbly,” said Reclamation Deputy Commissioner for Operations David Palumbo, who also spoke at the event. “Through cycles of wet seasons and severe drought, the dam has provided consistent and dependable water to support the entire region.”

Congress authorized the dam’s construction in 1905 to provide irrigation water to Southern New Mexico and West Texas as part of the Rio Grande Project. Reclamation completed construction in 1916. Elephant Butte is the largest dam in New Mexico, standing 301 feet tall and stretching 1,674 feet from end to end. At full capacity, it stores more than two million acre feet of water in Elephant Butte Reservoir, which is one of New Mexico’s premier recreation destinations. Its hydroelectric power plant is capable of generating 27,945 kilowatts of electricity during irrigation season water releases.

When it was dedicated on October 19, 1916, Elephant Butte was the largest irrigation dam in the United States and the second largest in the world. Its promise of water storage and clean energy enabled settlement and robust economic development throughout southern New Mexico and West Texas. It also helped resolve an international dispute and plays an important role in meeting international treaty obligations to Mexico.

Current water levels in Elephant Butte Reservoir provide a stark reminder of the impacts of drought on the region. However, the dam continues to meet its mission even during the past decade of drought. Throughout the past 100 years, Elephant Butte Dam has provided adequate storage and regular irrigation deliveries to sustain thousands of acres of farmland. Mr. Palumbo noted the dam’s ongoing safe operation and continued promise for the area, “I’m confident Elephant Butte Dam will continue providing a stable water supply for the Rincoln, Mesilla and El Paso Valleys well into the future.”

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