Elephant Butte Irrigation District warns farmers 2021 will be driest year since 2013


LAS CRUCES – 2021 will be “a difficult year for agriculture” in the Elephant Butte irrigation district, the agency said on Monday, warning irrigators to plan for the year with the driest water since 2013.

The district receives water from the river Rio Grande project, which distributes the supply to New Mexico, West Texas and the Juárez Valley in Mexico.

EBID reported that snowpack runoff in 2020 was 15% of its average, forcing the district to tap into excess water from the previous year, and that “the 2021 spring runoff looks a lot more like to 2020 than to 2019 “.

In addition, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a USDA agency, predicts 35 percent of the average spring runoff for the Elephant Butte Reservoir, which has fallen below 10 percent of its capacity.

Lorenzo Apadaca and his dog Max walk on the loose sand in the riverbed of the Rio Grande near the Shalem Settlement Bridge in Doña Ana County on Tuesday, March 23, 2021.

“The reservoir’s very low starting storage means that EBID is certain to have a late start to our surface water season,” the district reported.

That means a season for this year from June 1 through “maybe” July 1, with an allowance of about 4 inches. Given the tight deadline, the district urged farmers to submit their water orders by June.

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The district compared conditions to the 2013 water year, which saw a 3.5-inch allocation with water released from the Caballo dam for 47 days, and the 4-inch allocation in 2011.

The announcement was in line with a warning from EBID last fall that dry and hot conditions due to the La Niña events that reduce evaporation and push storms north, have left the neighborhood uncertain there would even be a lot this year, or something over 3-4 inches.

Loose sand in the Rio Grande's riverbed is pictured near the bridge at Shalem Settlement in Doña Ana County on Tuesday, March 23, 2021.

The La Niña episodes occur as part of a cycle of warming and cooling events in the Pacific Ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “affecting agriculture, public health, availability of water. freshwater, power generation, and economic activity in and around the United States. the globe.”

“During El Niño, drought risks increase in India, Indonesia and Australia and much of the Amazon, while the southern United States tends to see more rainfall,” according to NOAA. explains on his site. “During La Niña, the pattern is effectively reversed, with wetter conditions in Indonesia, Australia and parts of the Amazon, and dry conditions in the southern part of the United States.

These models are likely to increase in frequency, according to the agency, due to the effects of greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. The research can be viewed online at http://research.noaa.gov/.

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The low allocation and short season will force farmers in the region to make painful choices, which could include reducing harvests or relying on pumped groundwater, which can be damaging to some crops.

Drought conditions also mean a shorter growing season further north for the Albuquerque-based Middle Rio Grande Conservancy district, delaying irrigation water until April. The New Mexican of Santa Fe reported that the five main reservoirs in this district together represent 7% of their capacity.

Elephant Butte District, meanwhile, said irrigators “have gone through difficult years before and have done well. They are confident that with cooperation and communication they can get the most out of the supply. in limited water this year “.

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Algernon D’Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, [email protected] Where @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.


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