Irrigation district forecasts 40-day season and warns next year will be ‘difficult’

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Excerpt from EBID press release

Elephant Butte Irrigation District Irrigation Systems Manager James Narvaez reports the season is off to a good start, much like last year. His method of managing a tight system of “fast and furious” irrigation deliveries requires intense coordination between EBID staff, employees and district farmer members. Systematic surface water deliveries take into account the variable crops and water needs of agricultural producers, helping to prevent frequent wetting and drying out of the canal’s distribution system.

Throughout the “dry” season, EBID worked on its extensive system of laterals, canals and drains, maintaining the infrastructure that provides water during the “wet” irrigation season. Once the season begins, employees spend the first few days working in close communication with the El Paso Irrigation District 1 (EP1), carefully monitoring the river channel as it fills.

Then the EBID flushes the system, cleaning out any remaining debris pushed in by the Rio Grande’s surface water supply. As soon as the system is primed and ready, irrigation deliveries to meet farmers’ water orders begin. It takes several days for the river system to become wet and water losses to stabilize, Narvaez says, after which normal district operating procedures begin.

Narvaez, EBID Director Dr. Patrick Sullivan, and the District Board of Directors predict an estimated 40-day water season this year. The official end date depends on many factors, including the robustness of the predicted monsoon season.

EBID Hydrology Consultant Dr. Phil King reports: “The entire Rio Grande watershed is in a moderate to exceptionally dry state; the exceptional extends to us. The La Nina weather pattern persists and he warns, “Don’t expect any additional influx until we enter monsoon events. This will not affect our allocation or award.

King said this year’s minimum stock pools of 10,000 acre feet at Elephant Butte and 12,000 acre feet at Caballo, “are as bad as they have been since probably the 1970s.” He issued an early warning: ‘We’re not going out until June 1 next year. We won’t have storage until next year and we won’t get any spring runoff. Next year is going to be another tough year.

Although the irrigation season is short, the fresh water of the Rio Grande provides an annual opportunity for farmers to flush salts from the soil while irrigating their crops. Without it, the Hatch/Rincon and Mesilla valleys would be wasteland and unproductive. As surface water seeps into fields and orchards, it eventually flows down into the aquifer, recharging it and helping to maintain its health. EBID groundwater specialist Dr. Erek Fuchs continuously monitors the condition of the aquifer, analyzes recharge and studies disconnected sections of the system. He notes: “We are dealing with the reality of the years of drought that followed.

In addition to ensuring surface water deliveries to agricultural producers, EBID delivers to its lump sum members. These members should be ready to water the weekend of June 18-19 and ensure their ditches are clean and in good working order to increase delivery efficiency. Flat rate accounts are accounts with less than two acres of water rights land within EBID boundaries and whose accounts are paid in full. Flat rate accounts can only water once during the scheduled flat rate weekend, Friday night midnight through Sunday night midnight.

District members can access their accounts online through the Farmer Services tab on the EBID website at https://water.ebid-nm.org/truecip/ or by contacting the water records at 575-524-8003.

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