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Irrigation Demand Management – Environmental Water Leasing Program



Informational Flyer


The guiding principle for the EWLP, as with the entire Conservation Program, is that sustaining healthy agriculture in the Middle Rio Grande Valley is crucial to maintaining a healthy Rio Grande ecosystem.


The purpose of the EWLP is to reduce overall water demand and increase the flexibility of the District’s water resources as we work to balance competing needs of Irrigation Delivery, New Mexico’s Rio Grande Compact deliveries, and supporting endangered species. Depending on water supplies and river conditions, the EWLP may provide water for species conservation at Strategic Habitat Outfalls at critical times of the year. 


In its fifth year, the Irrigation Demand Management – Environmental Water Leasing Program (IDM-EWLP) offers landowners within the middle Rio Grande valley the opportunity to lease water back to the District. This year, the per-acre payment amount has increased. In partnership with the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, MRGCD will pay participants $400 per acre for a partial-season lease and $700 per acre for a full-season lease. The program will reduce overall water demand, increase the flexibility of MRGCD’s water resources, and help balance multiple water management objectives in the Middle Valley. Following termination of the lease, participants may once again irrigate those lands under the normal conditions of a District Water Service Contract.


2024 IDM-EWLP Program Design FAQs

  • Is there a Full Season Lease Option Available in 2024?
    • Yes: The District is offering a one -year Full Season Lease Option that will require applicants to fallow enrolled acreage for the duration of the 2024 irrigation season (March 1st – October 31st)
    • Applications received between November 27th, 2023 and February 16th, 2024 for a one-year Full Season will receive $700 per eligible acre (acreage will be capped).
  • Is there a Partial Season Lease Option Available?
    • Yes: The District is offering a Partial Season Lease Option that will require applicants to fallow enrolled acreage from May 1st through August 31st of 2024.
    • The District will pay $400 per eligible acre enrolled in the IDM-EWLP for Partial Season applications that are submitted between November 27th, 2023 and February 16th, 2024.
    • Individuals participating in the Partial Season Lease will be allowed to irrigate enrolled acreage in the Spring (March 1st through April 30th 2023) and again in the Fall (September 1st through October 31st) subject to official start up and closing of the irrigation season by the MRGCD Board of Directors.
    • Individuals participating in the Partial Season Lease may use surface or groundwater to irrigate enrolled land during the dates mentioned in the above bullet.
    • IMPORTANT: Participation in the 2024 Partial Season Lease does not create a priority for irrigation water above any other irrigator who is not participating in the program.
    • The District cannot guarantee water supply in the Fall of 2024. Irrigators enrolling in the Partial Season Program do so at their own risk.
  • Can I re-enroll land from previous leasing programs?
    • Landowners wishing to re-enroll the same acreage from previous lease agreements must show a valid Pre-1907 declaration for said acreage or re-enroll land that measures less than 10 eligible acres. Land that is irrigated with an MRGCD water right or measures more than 10 eligible acres is not eligible for year over year Full Season enrollment and must be rotated out of the program for a minimum of 2 years.
    • Landowners wishing to enroll in the program consecutively who do not have a declared Pre-1907 water right for land may enroll in the Partial Season Option year after year.
  • Do I have to show recent irrigation on my land to be eligible for enrollment?
    • Yes: The District will conduct a review of irrigation history on land that is submitted to the program using both satellite imagery and irrigation logbook records to ensure that submitted land has been irrigated at least 3 out of the last 5 years.
  • Can I enroll farmland with active farming leases?
    • Yes. However, any land enrolled in the program that is currently under lease must be enrolled by the Lessee with the consent of the Lessor (landowner).
  • What land use practices are permitted on enrolled land?
    • Agricultural production may continue on enrolled land, so long as production is the result only of natural precipitation, and no irrigation water is applied from any source, including groundwater pumping during the lease term.  The District encourages irrigators to manage weeds when possible.
  • Is Water Bank land eligible for enrollment?
    • No: Land currently supplied through the District’s Water Bank is not eligible for enrollment in the Program.
  • How many acres will be allowed into the 2024 IDM-EWLP?
    • The cap is 8,000 Full-Season equivalent acres for the 2024 IDM-EWLP.
  • Is there a minimum acreage size that I can enroll?
    • Yes: The minimum eligible acreage that can be enrolled is 1 acre. Applicants are allowed to enroll multiple tracts in order to reach 1 acre in total area.
  • How will the District enforce compliance with irrigators who enroll in the program?
    • Once the enrollment deadline is reached, the District will compile a master list of the acres and respective owners/lessees that are signed up for the 2024 IDM-EWLP. Irrigation System Operators (ISO’s) overseeing water delivery for enrolled lands will be notified of the specific acreage that has been enrolled in their service area. If an ISO finds a field that appears to be irrigated outside the terms of the lease agreement, they will contact the owner and the Conservation Program regarding the violation.  Review of the incident by the District may result in termination of the Agreement, in which case the Irrigator will be obligated to return in full to MRGCD any payment already made for the use of water while enrolled in the 2024 IDM-EWLP.
  • How will I be paid by the District once I enroll?
    • The District will pay youa portion of the total lease agreement amount following review of your application and the signing of a contract. Any field inspections will take place prior to signing a contract. You will receive the remaining portion of the total lease agreement once the District has inspected and approved the enrolled acreage at the end of the season.  Full payment should be expected on or around November 15, 2024.

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