The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, which supplies irrigation water to some 70,000 acres of farm land from Cochiti to Elephant Butte Reservoir in central New Mexico, will curtail water deliveries to farmers with low-priority water rights.
The unprecedented decision, a response to current drought conditions, was made this morning (Mon. 4/15/2013), according to David Gensler, the agency’s water managers, after flows dropped in the Rio Grande, according to David Gensler, the agency’s water manager. The decision is a response to a new policy adopted recently by the agency’s elected Board of Directors to curtail customers of the agency’s “water bank” during extreme years like this one. Water bank customers are typically farmers who have sold their water rights for use in New Mexico’s urban areas, but continue farming by leasing water one year at a time from a pool of surplus water managed by the agency. With the surplus tapped out this year and river levels dropping, the agency has for the first time triggered a curtailment of water bank users, ensure that senior water rights holders who have not sold their rights have enough water to farm.
The move will reduce water available to about 2,500 acres of farmland, about 3 percent of the total acreage to which the district delivers water, according to Gensler. Here’s the memo that went out to water bank users:
We’ll have more in tomorrow’s newspaper.