Hydrologist warns of the effects of drought on Rio Grande

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Rio Grande is a vast source of water that millions of New Mexicans rely on, but America’s second-largest river is not flowing like it used to.

One hydrologist says recent weather conditions are not helping where we stand on the Rio Grande.

"A little more than 50% of the state is in what we call extreme to exceptional drought, we divide drought into four categories and those are our two worst categories," said Andrew Mangham senior service hydrologist for the National Weather Service.

Mangham says this dry spell has lasted for three years.

"We have been way above normal for temperatures and well below normal for precipitation for months now, really ominously high temperatures," said Mangham.

He added that these conditions impact one of the West’s main sources of life.

"Elephant Butte is at 8% capacity, and that’s what we use to send water down to Texas and we have to do that via the Rio Grande compact that we have, so snow is low reserves are low, we’re not getting very much rain so fair and we don’t look like we are getting much more," Mangham said.

And if the Rio Grande continues to get drier, the consequences are barren.

"All these dry conditions and drought conditions enhance the risk of wildfire which gets into the forest and causes burn scars and worse flash flooding if we do get a monsoon, so it’s this huge cascade effect.”

Mangham says although the future sounds grim, there is hope, the average citizen can have a big impact by making some simple moves to conserve water.