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Low River Flow Forces Halt in Diversions

Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility curtailed its Rio Grande diversions Tuesday because levels in the river were too low.
Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility curtailed its Rio Grande diversions Tuesday because levels in the river were too low.
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Albuquerque’s water utility shut down its Rio Grande drinking water diversions Tuesday afternoon for the second time in a week after the drought-strained river’s levels dropped.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority had already scaled back its river diversions Aug. 18, shifting to groundwater to meet metro area drinking water needs. But the utility hopes to continue using some river water two days a week, releasing water it has stored behind Abiquiu Dam and diverting it from the river at its dam near Alameda on Albuquerque’s north side for use as drinking water.

But last Friday, river levels dropped too much, and the utility had to stop its diversions, said John Stomp, the agency’s chief operating officer.

Stomp said shortly before 4 p.m. Tuesday that the utility was again shutting down because of the low river.

Its permit requires it to leave enough water in the river for 122 cubic feet per second of flow — a bit more than 900 gallons per second — at the Central Avenue Bridge. By comparison, the long term average for Aug. 28 is 633 cubic feet per second.

Tuesday afternoon, the river had dropped to 128 cubic feet per second, just above the utility’s permit level, shortly after 3 p.m.

Tuesday’s drying river is the latest fallout from the drought of 2012. Rio Grande flows have been just 48 percent of the long range average so far this year. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, which delivers farm water from Cochiti to Socorro, has curtailed irrigation supplies, and federal biologists say the river’s population of endangered silvery minnows is near record low levels.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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