Will El Niño provide relief to the Rio Grande?
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When you consider the 60,000 acres the Rio Grande irrigates each year, it’s tough to not worry about its expanding sandbars.
However, one local farmer says good seasons come and good seasons go. Chris Lopez has relied on the river for decades to water his chile and alfala in Socorro.
“It’s a family operation and we farm close to 700 acres,” Lopez said.
The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District is partially responsible for managing the water. District CEO Jason Casuga says the lack of infrastructure is partly to blame.
They typically store water in the El Vado Dam, but not right now. The dam is closed and is being repaired by the federal government until at least 2026.
“The end goal is to store it, then slowly release it to get us through the hot months and then get us all the way to November,” Casuga said.
However, without a place to store the water, they have to use it when it comes.
Casuga says next year could look the same. El Niño should make the winter wetter, but after the snowpack melts, they can only hope for rain.
Lopez said over at their farm, they won’t be growing winter wheat this year because of the lack of moisture.
“We’ve done everything we can to conserve water, we’ve laser leveled our field, installed concrete ditches…” Lopez said.
If you see higher water levels in the Rio Grande over the next few days, it’s because the Army Corps of Engineers also manages the water. They will be releasing some from Cochiti to flow down to Elephant Butte. Eventually, it will flow to Texas for the next irrigation season.