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Carlsbad may face a water shortage in 2019

About 99 percent of New Mexico was labeled as suffering drought conditions throughout the year by the United States Drought monitor, but Carlsbad officials said the city – fed by numerous underground aquifers and the Pecos River – was largely protected

That could change next year after months of scarce rainfall in 2018.

The scarcity also creates a challenge for the local agriculture industry.

Hundreds of Carlsbad farmers and ranchers tapping into the Carlsbad Irrigation District got a full allotment this year after a healthy 2017 rainfall and adequate snowpacks that fed reservoirs.

But after a drought set in late in the year, providing less than an inch of rainfall between October 2017 and summer 2018, next year’s allotment might be dramatically lower.

Manager of the CID Dale Ballard said it could be less than an acre-foot.

A full allotment is 3.697 acre-feet and Ballard believes it will suffice the year’s remaining deliveries.

So far, Ballard said the CID delivered about 29,000 acre-feet to local farmers. With the full allotment, that’s enough to water 10,000 acres.

“We think we will be fine this year, but next year if we don’t get some rain events soon to replenish the reservoirs, we might have less than an (acre) foot,” he said. “We’ve got about three months left in deliveries. We project we will have enough water to make it at least to the end of the year.”

Ballard said full reservoirs might not signify adequate water levels, as they are depleted by deliveries and evaporation, but not recharged when rain is scarce.

The CID uses three reservoirs to store its water: Fort Sumner, Santa Rosa and Brantley.

“If you’re in a real drought and your reservoirs are full, there’s not going to be much water for next year,” he said. “We just haven’t had the rain events.”

The monsoon typically runs through the summer months, creating sporadic but heavy downpours throughout the desert region of the American Southwest.

But Ballard cautioned that the monsoon appears to have shifted to the late summer and early fall in recent years.

“Our outlook could change,” he said. “A good rain event could make a big difference.”