Above average temps are drying the Rio Grande

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — According to Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District officials, above average temperatures across New Mexico are having an especially severe impact on the Rio Grande.

MRGCD CEO and Chief Engineer Jason Casuga said the heat is canceling out recent monsoon rain and drying up the river.

“Drying in Albuquerque is imminent, without rain,” he said. “It’s going to happen. It’s going to start from the southern end and work its way north.”

Casuga noted how the water level has decreased noticeably in the past the week.

“I see a lot of dirt in that river right now. Not near as much water.”

New Mexico has experienced extreme drought for years, but these are conditions officials said they have not seen since the 1980s. Casuga recognized how this puts local farmers, who rely on the river to water their crops, in a tough spot.

“We are working with our legislature on funding to support the farmers, maybe in times of drought, because this is what they do for a living, and if there’s not water, they can’t grow,” he said.

Casuga added that dry conditions impact communities outside the state that also benefit from the Rio Grande.

“There is a requirement for a certain amount of water based on the total water produced in the Rio Grande basin that has to move from Colorado to New Mexico, and New Mexico to Texas,” he said. “New Mexico, I think was approximately 127,000 acre-feet in debt to Texas. That is a lot of water, and it’s not typically something that you would be able to pay back in one year. So the bill is large and growing.”

MRGCD officials said they are trying to minimize that debt by more efficiently delivering water to Elephant Butte.

“There’s work that we’re doing with the federal government to help ensure that we can have water being delivered to Elephant Butte 12 months out of the year,” he said. “Even if it’s not a lot, it’s important to try to make that delivery on a month-to-month basis.”

In the end, officials said what the river really need is more rain.

“If you’re a praying sort of person, pray for rain,” Casuga said.

Click here for more information on water conservation from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.