Bureau of Reclamation to Begin Water Releases from Elephant Butte Reservoir in Preparation of Rio Grande Project Irrigation Season

Media Contact: Mary Carlson, (505)462-3576

For Release: February 16, 2018

Elephant Butte Dam and the Rio Grande.
Elephant Butte Dam and the Rio Grande.
ELEPHANT BUTTE, N.M. – Water movement on the Rio Grande Project is set to begin next week in preparation for the upcoming irrigation season.

The Bureau of Reclamation will begin releases from Elephant Butte Dam at 8 a.m. on Friday February 23 to move water to Caballo Reservoir. The release will quickly ramp up to 600 cubic feet per second.

Water delivery from Caballo Dam is scheduled to begin on March 16 with a release of 500 cubic feet per second. That release will increase to 2,100 cubic feet per second by 10 a.m.

The dry riverbeds below both reservoirs will take on water quickly and the water will begin to flow downstream. The public is asked to stay out of the river channels for their safety. Flows will fluctuate through the spring and summer months according to downstream irrigation demands.

The Rio Grande Project is used to irrigate lands in the Elephant Butte Irrigation District in southern New Mexico and in the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 in far west Texas. The Rio Grande Project also supplies water to Mexico in accordance with a 1906 international treaty. In addition, water from the project is used for municipal and industrial purposes by the city of El Paso, Texas. Although irrigation storage and delivery is the primary purpose for Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs, Elephant Butte releases are also used to produce hydroelectric power. Recreation is also an important secondary benefit of both Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs.

Due to a minimal snowpack in the mountains feeding the Rio Grande, little inflow is forecast for Elephant Butte this spring. Reclamation will provide periodic updates on expected levels at the reservoirs as we enter the summer recreation months.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at https://www.usbr.gov and follow us on Twitter @USBR.