Irrigation Season Begins With Below Average Water Supply

Las Cruces – With a significantly below average precipitation and forecasted runoff in the Rio Grande Basin, Reclamation will initiate releases from Caballo Dam at 8 a.m. on Friday for the 2011 irrigation season with present allotments on the Rio Grande Project at 27 percent of full supply.

Beginning in January, Reclamation notified the Elephant Butte Irrigation District in southern New Mexico, El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 in west Texas, the Republic of Mexico, and the city of El Paso about the anticipated below average irrigation water supply for the 2011 season.

The year-to-date precipitation in the basin is only 77 percent of average with snowpack at only 68 percent compared to 114 percent last year. The March 1st spring runoff forecast into Elephant Butte Reservoir is 52 percent of average with significantly below average precipitation in January of 32 percent. Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs are expected to remain at very low storage levels throughout the year. On March 1, 2011, Elephant Butte Reservoir storage was 504,280 acre-feet or 23 percent full, compared to 561,500 acre-feet in storage at the same time last year.

The public should be aware that water levels within the Rio Grande channel will rise and fluctuate throughout the irrigation season, particularly with the initial releases from Caballo Dam of 480 cubic feet per second. The public should also be aware of fluctuating water levels within the Rio Grande natural channel downstream of Elephant Butte Dam, as well as the lake level at Caballo Reservoir during the irrigation season.

Reclamation began water releases through the Elephant Butte Dam power plant on March 1, 2011. The present discharge is 710 cubic feet per second with releases through one turbine. Reclamation uses this discharge to raise Caballo Reservoir water level to its summer operating range and supply storage water for irrigation on the Rio Grande Project.