MRGCD Exhausts San Juan Chama Water Supply

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Release issued: 08/28/2023

Albuquerque, NM – For the second time in 40 years, the Rio Grande will likely run dry in Albuquerque. High temperatures, lack of rainfall and inability to store adequate supplemental water, have contributed to the onset of a dryer-than-usual season throughout the Middle Rio Grande.

In mid-July, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District began releasing from its allocation of water from the San Juan-Chama Project. These releases supplemented irrigation deliveries through the middle valley through August. MRGCD’s SJCP water has now been depleted, and the natural flow of the Rio Grande is well below what is needed to meet the irrigation demand of non-Pueblo lands. The remaining water will be first delivered to the six middle Rio Grande Pueblo’s Prior and Paramount Lands.  MRGCD will do its best to equitably deliver any water in excess of the Prior and Paramount irrigation demand to non-Pueblo lands downstream of the Pueblo of Isleta. If rain increases available water supply in the river MRGCD will resume delivery to non-tribal lands north of the Pueblo of Isleta.

“Unfortunately, our hydrological reality is tough: we have natural factors like high temperatures and lack of rain, as well as infrastructure and Rio Grande Compact restraints that limit our ability to store and distribute water for times like these” said Jason Casuga, Chief Executive Officer, MRGCD.

There are some sections of the Middle Rio Grande Valley that do run dry most years, however last year was the first time the river reach ran dry in Albuquerque since the 1980s.  Middle Rio Grande water users have been given prior notice to anticipate extreme water shortage and irrigation delivery limitations. “Our hope is that there is always enough water to provide to our users when they need it, but the reality is that there are challenges, and we will all have to work together to adapt and come up with solutions that keep the Middle Rio Grande Valley green,” said Casuga.  “Ongoing coordination with partner agencies to secure alternate water storage, as well as efforts to increase conveyance efficiency are among our top priorities as this irrigation season winds down.” 

While dry river areas can seem like a safe open space to explore, MRGCD officials and its partners ask that the public steer clear of such areas. Sudden rain runoff and flash flooding could pose a dangerous environment to members of the public. In addition, trekking through a dry riverbed could permanently damage its habitat.