Streamflow and snowpack up, reservoir levels extremely low

February 6, 2019

Recent forecasts for the Rio Grande are a mixed bag, delivering some news that is very good and some that is very dire. The first item of good news: the streamflow for the Rio at Otowi Gauge in Northern New Mexico is 73 percent of average—a marked improvement from last year’s 24 percent. The second item of good news: snowpack in the Upper Rio Grande Basin, Rio Chama Basin, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains is also up.

Unfortunately, however, reservoir levels in the Rio Grande Basin are extremely low. The five main storage reservoirs on the Rio are starting the year with 38% of the storage they had last year. “Entering the irrigation season with almost no water in our reservoirs means that everyone will be looking primarily to our rivers to satisfy their water needs,” noted Guardians’ Jen Pelz.

The bottom line: numbers may fluctuate, but with climate change threatening to decrease flows in the Rio Grande by about one-third by 2100, it’s clear that New Mexico’s water management strategy of consuming every last drop is no longer a sustainable path forward.

Read the press release.


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