Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers release 2018 Annual Operating Plan for the Rio Grande

Worsening drought significantly impacts flows on the Rio Grande as strategy is implemented to manage limited water supply.

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

For Release: April 12, 2018

The drying riverbed of the Middle Rio Grande near the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge on April 4, 2018.
The drying riverbed of the Middle Rio Grande near the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge on April 4, 2018.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – In the face of a worsening drought, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Office and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today released their Annual Operating Plan for the Rio Grande. Some of the lowest snowpack reports on record will leave water managers with very little water to manage and some difficult decisions on when and how to move water down the Rio Grande to benefit downstream water users and to implement a survival strategy for the Rio Grande silvery minnow, which is protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The April forecast data released by the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows the Jemez River Basin at 6 percent of average, the Chama River Basin at 18 percent of average, and the Upper Rio Grande at 50 percent of average. Inflow into Heron Reservoir is estimated to be approximately 30,000 acre-feet. This, combined with the previous allocation of 55,000, should bring San Juan-Chama Contractors close to a full allocation this year. El Vado Reservoir is projected to have an inflow of about 41,000 acre-feet and could be nearly empty by July.

Reclamation has about 11,600 acre-feet of water available to supplement flows through the Middle Rio Grande and is currently releasing about 200 acre-feet. More than 10 miles have already dried in the Bosque del Apache area. Reclamation is working closely with its partners and is focused on implementing a survival strategy for the Rio Grande silvery minnow as outlined in the 2016 Middle Rio Grande Biological Opinion. Reclamation is coordinating with Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure fish rescue crews are active in the areas of the river that have dried. We are also working with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Albuquerque Water Utility Authority, and other stakeholders on an operational pulse to facilitate silvery minnow egg collection efforts.

On the Rio Grande Project in southern New Mexico, the allocation to the two irrigation districts and Mexico is about 60 percent of a full allocation. Both irrigation districts had some carryover water in storage from last year. Little inflow is expected to Elephant Butte Reservoir this spring, and it could be left holding less than 5 percent of its capacity at the end of the irrigation season.

The drying riverbed of the Middle Rio Grande near the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge on April 4, 2018.
The drying riverbed of the Middle Rio Grande near the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge on April 4, 2018.

Reclamation operates pumps to move water from the Low Flow Conveyance Channel into the Rio Grande. The LFCC acts as a drain for the lower part of the Middle Rio Grande.
Reclamation operates pumps to move water from the Low Flow Conveyance Channel into the Rio Grande. The LFCC acts as a drain for the lower part of the Middle Rio Grande.

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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.