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Elephant Butte, Caballo lakes boosted by monsoon rains

bestbutteLAS CRUCES — Water levels at Elephant Butte Lake and Caballo Reservoir have climbed in recent weeks, thanks to regional monsoon rainfall.

While the increases aren’t on the scale of what happened in 2013, when precipitation resulted in steep water-level spikes, they’re also nothing to overlook, local water officials said.

Water levels in both lakes typically reach their lowest point of the year around the end of the summer irrigation seasons in Doña Ana County, El Paso County and Mexico — three areas that all rely upon the reservoirs to water their crops.

In all, the volume of water in Elephant Butte Lake rose 32 percent since its end-of-irrigation-seasons low point on Aug. 2, according to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water releases from both reservoirs. An extra 41,600 acre-feet of new water flowed into the lake, boosting the total as of late last week to about 172,500 acre-feet, or about 8.5 percent full.

Bert Cortez, of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in El Paso, said that other than local precipitation, there’s not much other water entering the lakes.

Meanwhile, Caballo Lake rose 42 percent in volume since its lowest point of the year, which happened Aug. 23, according to Bureau of Reclamation numbers. That lake gained about 9,100 acre-feet of water and, as of last Thursday, sat at about 31,100 acre-feet — nearly 14 percent full.

While the extra lake water isn’t as much as in 2013 after lots of rainfall, it’s still a positive sign for the state parks surrounding the reservoirs, said Elephant Butte Lake State Parks Superintendent Kay Dunlap.

“Definitely any time the lake levels increase, it’s a benefit to us,” she said.

In particular, the more water Caballo Lake has to start off the spring 2015 irrigation season, the less Elephant Butte Lake will have to release, Dunlap said.

As irrigation continues throughout next summer, lake water levels are likely to be slightly higher than they would have without the extra inflow from this year’s rain.

“Every little bit helps,” Dunlap said.