Rio Grande water levels begin to drop

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There have been a record number of water rescues this year, and now the water is finally slowing down.

“This was really a double-edged sword for the district,” said Anne Marken, the operations manager of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.

Data from the last 30 days show the spring runoff is slowing and flows in Albuquerque are headed down – down by almost half since the end of June.

Still, the levels are three times what it was just one year ago.

“It kind of makes those summer base flows higher, so even after the runoff is over, we won’t see it at the lowest low get as low as it did last year,” Marken said.

All the water this year presented different challenges, though.

“When the river is really full like this, it’s not particularly efficient,” Marken said. “It jumps out of the main channel and spreads out onto the flood plain.”

Marken said water absorbed by vegetation and evaporation took away the water they hoped would make a dent in the 93,000 acre-feet of water owed downstream.

“We might see the Rio Grande Compact grow – but again it’s hard to tell that. I think that’s one maybe downside to this good spring runoff that we’ve had this year,” Marken said.

Farmers protested earlier this year as they watched water flow south to Elephant Butte, instead of their fields.

“It’s challenging, I think, as a farmer to see a lot of water in the river – and you’re telling me you need to wait for it,” Marken said.

Marken said they pivoted to meet the demands of farmers and have kept up with crop demands since April.

“No matter what the water supply conditions are it’s probably good, since we live in the desert, to be mindful of how we’re using our water,” Marken said.