Reservoirs Provide Water Through Dry Summer

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

For Release: August 30, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Several Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs in New Mexico will end this summer with minimal pools of water, after having done exactly what they are intended to do – provide water stored during wet times for use in dry periods. Through most of this summer, the reservoirs have released water for farmers, municipalities, industrial use, and recreation.

Due to water stored in previous years, farmers along the Rio Grande received irrigation water, municipalities received water and hundreds of thousands of people enjoyed recreational benefits in New Mexico in spite of a hot, dry summer that followed one of the driest winters on record.

Heron Reservoir in northern New Mexico stores water as part of the San Juan-Chama Project for various municipal and agricultural uses including the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. Heron is currently holding approximately 101,000 acre-feet of water, which is 25 percent of its capacity. That quantity will decrease steadily through the end of the year as San Juan-Chama Project contractors use their supplies or move them downstream.

El Vado Reservoir reached a low point of about 5 percent of capacity at 9,344 acre-feet earlier this summer before the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District ran out of storage in the reservoir. El Vado is currently holding only San Juan-Chama Project water, and should remain relatively steady until next spring.

Elephant Butte Reservoir is expected to reach a low of about 49,000 acre-feet at the end of September when irrigation releases for the Rio Grande Project and deliveries to the Republic of Mexico conclude. That content would be the lowest in Elephant Butte since 1971. This would be less than 3 percent of the reservoir’s capacity. The reservoir is then expected to start gaining storage through the winter. Caballo Reservoir is expected to end the season with about 25,600 acre-feet of water, which is 11 percent of its capacity.

Water levels at these reservoirs are on track with Reclamation forecasts presented this spring, when Reclamation shared expectations for a year with one of the lowest snowpacks and spring runoffs on record.

“It’s important that we recognize that these reservoirs stored water in 2017 and earlier years, when we had better supplies, and released it in 2018 when there was very little natural flow in the Rio Grande,” said Albuquerque Area Manager Jennifer Faler. “We know that our reservoirs are low as we head into September, but they have provided water throughout the summer, and there are still great recreation opportunities such as fishing, boating and camping to be had at all of our reservoirs. Rafting flows on the Rio Chama are also expected to remain good into mid-September.”

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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.