Irrigators may need to stop diverting Rio Grande water

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The flow of water in the Rio Grande near Albuquerque is down to a trickle, writes New Mexico Political ReportsOpens in a new tab..

The lack of water means that for the first time since the early 1980s, irrigators may need to stop diverting water due to a 1928 agreement granting senior water rights to six Middle Rio Grande Pueblos.  While monsoons this year have kept water in the river, it is anticipated that the stretch of the Rio Grande near Albuquerque will go dry in July or early August.

Drought and the depletion of San Juan-Chama storage water have contributed to the situation.

In its 2022 irrigation season update, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy DistrictOpens in a new tab. gives a stark warning to farmers:

Water availability is very limited, and as MRGCD runs out of its San Juan Chama Project (SJCP) storage water to augment the native flow of the river this week, it will become more so. The available water to the MRGCD is not enough to meet irrigation demands throughout the valley.  However, the MRGCD continues to make irrigation deliveries in all four divisions with what water is available.  Water is distributed in proportion to the acreage served, and ditches are operated on a rotational basis. Without rain, flows in the river are expected to drop low enough by the end of Sunday, June 19th, that the Corrales pumping operation may no longer be feasible.

The MRGCD has NOT decided to end the irrigation season; the middle valley is simply running out of water. If monsoon rains produce runoff to the river, the MRGCD will divert what it can and deliver it to irrigators. Depending on the location and intensity of rain events, it is unlikely rain will benefit all areas, and it’s possible it could benefit the same areas over and over. Often rain runoff is of short duration, and even though the MRGCD diverts to capacity, runoff from the event may not last long enough to sustain deliveries, especially in ditches furthest from the point of diversion. The MRGCD will do its best to equitably distribute inflows from summer rains.

Farmers should exercise caution when making decisions this summer. The ability of the MRGCD to guarantee water deliveries at any time are extremely limited. Irrigators should be prepared to irrigate on short notice, any day of the week, and any time of day.




Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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