Drought and Salinity Impacts on the Rio Grande Project
The on-going drought in the Rio Grande Basin is causing increases in salinity levels throughout the Rio Grande Project. Ground water pumping in the irrigation districts is at a much higher level than during the drought of the 1950s. The amount of treated sewage effluent is also a greater percentage of the total surface waters, due to increases in population. Finally, the underlying brackish and saline ground water zones present at certain geologic formations are contributing a greater load of salts into the Rio Grande Project. These inputs are exacerbated by the lower flows experienced during this drought.
A Salinity Management Plan is required for long-term planning in response to the degrading water quality and rising salinity levels currently experienced. This management plan will investigate strategies that can be implemented to alleviate salt loading both for the farmers and the City of El Paso, Texas, which derives nearly 50 percent of its potable supply from the Rio Grande during normal conditions.
Need and Benefit
Water quality issues pervade the Western United States, and Reclamation needs to be in an effective position to handle these issues as they impact our facilities. Partnerships with entities such Water Resource Research Institutes (WRRI), universities, state agencies, and municipalities can be enhanced with insights into salinity management.
The principles underlying an effective salinity management program can be applied Reclamation-wide to address drought and salinity issues. Determining the causes of salinity builds a foundation for determining effective approaches to salinity management.
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