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Water Leasing Program

MRGCD’s Conservation Program

What is the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District’s Conservation Program?

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District’s (District) Conservation Program (Program) is a comprehensive effort which aims to increase the District’s resilience to variable water supply, and to address new challenges faced by water users.  The Program will benefit constituents by advancing efficient water delivery and use, thus increasing the dependability of water supply for sustainable agriculture; while supporting our Bosque, riverine habitat, and species conservation.  A guiding principle for the Program is that sustaining healthy agriculture in the middle valley is crucial to maintaining a healthy Rio Grande ecosystem.

Why is a Conservation Program Needed?

Water has always been a critical resource in New Mexico.  The District’s experience over the past 25 years has brought into focus the limited nature of water and its vulnerability to changing conditions.  A growing population and concern for ecosystem and species health have placed additional challenges on our water supply.  A Conservation Program is needed to ensure that the District is in the best possible position to meet those challenges and protect our ability to deliver water to water users.  While meeting the irrigation needs of our constituents remains our first priority, the District must also manage water supply for Rio Grande Compact deliveries and endangered species conservation obligations.  This challenge can be particularly severe when stored water in El Vado Reservoir is insufficient or unavailable to supplement flows in the Rio Grande. The Conservation Program is intended to complement other District efforts to manage water and lands in a way that maximizes benefits to all our constituents.

How is the Conservation Program Being Developed?

The Conservation Program is still in the early stages of development.  The District’s Board of Directors established a Conservation Advisory Committee (CAC) to advise in the design of the Program.  The CAC includes District Board members, diverse District constituents, and staff.  It is structured to ensure that the Program addresses needs without interfering with other District operations or obligations.  The CAC is reviewing and developing potential Program components, all of which are designed to support efficient water use and delivery.

What Activities Fall Into the Conservation Program?

The CAC is exploring several different tools and activities that can support the District’s water conservation objectives.  Pilot programs currently under consideration for implementation include:

  • Water delivery system efficiency improvements.
  • On-farm irrigation efficiency improvements.
  • Improvement to irrigation scheduling and water delivery practices.
  • Technical and financial resources to support productive agriculture and efficient water use.
  • Voluntary water leasing within the District’s service area through the District’s water bank to promote innovative and successful farming, ecosystem health and species conservation.
  • Habitat restoration and development to improve effectiveness of species conservation.

Pilot programs will be conducted beginning in 2020.  The program is overseen by the District’s Board of Directors, which ultimately approves all activities.

What are the Benefits of the Conservation Program?

The Conservation Program further enables the District to effectively manage available water for the benefit of its constituents and operational priorities, which can be seen as a triangle.

Conservation Program Benefits Triangle

For Irrigators, the Conservation Program:

  • Supports efficient water use and successful agriculture
  • Creates flexibility to extend water availability during times of short supply in accordance with the District’s Water Distribution Policy;
  • Increases the District’s ability to meet the demand for irrigation water.

For Ecosystem Health and Species Conservation, the Conservation Program:

  • Provides a supplemental source of water for habitat development and species conservation;
  • Ensures that limited available water is used in a way that maximizes species benefit;
  • Develops effective habitat and required infrastructure.

How Will I be Affected?

The Conservation Program is designed to increase District resilience by mitigating shortage-related impacts on constituents through enhanced conservation methods.

  • The Program will provide resources to water users to encourage and sustain successful agriculture within the District.  


  • The Program will create voluntary opportunities for constituents to increase the productivity of their water use and water rights through education, infrastructure improvement, or water leasing within the District’s service area.


  • The Program will not deny the use of water from the middle Rio Grande to any person or entity within the District that has a legal right to use such water, without that person or entity’s consent.

How Can I Get More Information?

Contact Casey Ish at MRGCD at casey@mrgcd.us or (505) 247.0234.

Source Material:

MOA (Reclamation – MRGCD – NFWF) re: “Native Water Leasing and Habitat Restoration Pilot Program”

Conservation Committee Draft Vision and Objectives