New Mexico rivers face average runoff, water management challenges

Jamez River in New Mexico
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  • Near-average snowpack: Northern mountains should yield normal runoff.
  • Below-average flows likely: Most of the Rio Grande Basin faces reduced water flows.
  • Construction impacts storage: El Vado Dam releases will be limited during renovations.
  • Potential for late-season challenges: Water shortages possible in late summer and fall.

May 2, 2024 — The recent Annual Operating Plan for the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers highlights the challenges of water management in New Mexico, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. While snowpack in the northern mountains is near average, the April streamflow forecast projects below-average water supplies for much of the state. The Jemez River is an exception, with flows potentially exceeding normal levels.

Construction at El Vado Dam will limit its water storage capabilities in 2024. Reclamation, along with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and the city of Santa Fe, will work to maintain a minimum flow in the Rio Grande. This may mean reduced weekday flows to bolster available water on weekends.

“Reclamation expects that runoff will be about average this year,” said Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Office Manager Jennifer FalerOpens in a new tab.. “With limited upstream storage, conditions will likely be challenging in late summer and into the fall. We are committed to working closely with our partners on both the Rio Grande and the Pecos River to get the most from the available water supply.”

Elephant Butte Reservoir likely reached its peak storage for the year in February and may end irrigation season around 100,000 acre-feet. Releases for El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 and Mexico began in early March and water deliveries for the Elephant Butte Irrigation District are expected to begin June 1. Along the Pecos River, the April forecast is for near average inflow to Santa Rosa Reservoir.

Reclamation officials anticipate challenges in late summer and fall due to limited water resources. Water users along both the Rio Grande and Pecos rivers will need to work closely with water managers to optimize supplies.

For more details on the Annual Operating Plan, please visit: in a new tab. under Data –> Tools and Dashboards Tab and Rio Grande AOP Projections.

Image Credit:

Jemez River, Santa Ana Pueblo New MexicoOpens in a new tab., February 2013.  John Phelan.  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license


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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