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What Drought Looks Like, Rio Grande Edition

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While much of the western water community focuses on the deepening drought on the Colorado River, we’ve got something similar happening on the Rio Grande. The folks at Texas A&M in El Paso point out in their monthly drought watch (pdf) that we’re in the midst of a very long dry spell on New Mexico’s central river:


Over the last 14 years there have only been three years with above average spring runoff into Elephant Butte reservoir, 1997, 2005 and 2008.


This year, flow into Elephant Butte is forecast at 70 percent. That’s down substantially from the early spring forecasts, when it look like El Nino snows would help us out. A dry spring took care of that.

As a result, by late July levels in the Butte are expected to drop to the point that triggers “Article VII”, the provision in the Rio Grande Compact that restricts upstream storage in New Mexico.



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