The Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs supply over 90,000 acres of New Mexican farmland with water. The water level of the two reservoirs has diminished significantly over past the sixteen-year drought and both reservoirs now stand at less than ten percent capacity. In an increasingly hotter and dryer Southwest, the drought doesn’t look like it will end anytime in the near future.
Flowing 1,800 miles from southern Colorado all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande not only supplies water to a considerable portion of Albuquerque’s urban needs, but it also is the main source for irrigation water throughout the southern regions of the state.
Due to the drought, low stream flows in the Rio Grande have been the standard over the past ten years. The source of the river just north of Del Norte, Colorado has been at eighty-three percent of its historical average since 2002; the Rio Grande is the driest it’s ever been since the late ‘50s. The precipitation rate in the Del Norte headwaters has tanked below average eight over the past decade or so. These low flows have caused Elephant Butte’s water levels to plummet.
Connie Woodhouse, professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Geography and Development says, “We have longer droughts and more severe flows reconstructed.” The frequency, severity, and duration of droughts are beginning to exceed those of the recent past; these records serve as a warning that something in our water use and conservation habits need to change. The world is changing and we need to change with it.
Whether we like it or not, the future will be dryer. Average Rio Grande stream flows have been on a steady decline the past ten years and it’s not too far fetched to say that one day in the not-too-far future it is likely to completely dry up in certain parts, cutting off the flow to many water users downstream. Parts of the river drying up will also cause congestion which will lead to flooding in all throughout New Mexico.
http://www.abqjournal.com/ (Second Picture)
http://newmexico.watchdog.org/ (First Picture)