Irrigation district interrupts water bank deliveries due to shortage

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People waded in the shallow waters of the Rio Grande off Rio Bravo last week. Irrigation deliveries have been reduced due to water shortages. (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District has halted irrigation deliveries for some farmers and used up Rio Grande’s water stored last year.

“The water we see in the river today would be good for August, but not good for early June,” Director of Water Operations David Gensler said at the board meeting. Monday.

The district will struggle to obtain water this summer if the monsoon is not sufficient, Gensler said.

In late May, MRGCD announced a reduction in shoreline irrigation deliveries because the inflow to the river had fallen below a threshold of 950 cubic feet per second.

Farmers at the water’s edge, who pay an annual irrigation fee, have three options to continue irrigating during a reduction, district CEO and chief engineer Mike Hamman said.

One is to have alternative discount locations, or ACLs, in their contract. An LCA is a piece of land that farmers can choose not to irrigate during reduction so that they can keep other land – some of which may be water bank properties – in production.

“Some (farmers) who don’t know the background or the details of this person’s contract may assume that others are doing something fishy or cheating on the system,” Hamman told the Journal. “It’s always been a controversy. People get angry when there are shortages.

Farmers can also work with the state engineer to transfer their pre-1907 water rights to property irrigated by a water bank, sometimes via a declaration of emergency. They can also buy back water use rights from municipalities.

Miguel Cordova, a third-generation farmer from Valencia and Socorro counties, told the Journal last week that the workarounds are only helping “major players”.

“Not everyone plays by the same rules,” said Cordova, who grows alfalfa, corn and oats. “Many of us watch our neighbors irrigate farms that have been dry since 1987. Who is going to throw us a bone? Because we don’t have that option.

Some district staff gathered last week in Belen with Cordova and 30 other farmers.

Board member Stephanie Russo Baca said many farmers “did not want an equal solution, but a fair solution”. The district should educate more on irrigation options, she said.

MRGCD has resumed certain deliveries of water banks in the Socorro division.

Irrigation system operators, or “ditch passengers,” are responsible for ensuring that farmers comply with district water bank contracts or relevant state permits.

“Policing and enforcing these measures is a nightmare for our field staff,” Gensler said, adding that it can take hours to track down water transfer documents on a single property. .

If the district confirms illegal irrigation, it can issue warnings, lock out or weld irrigation switches, or even cancel water bank contracts.

Theresa Davis is a member of the Report for America body covering Water and the Environment for the Albuquerque Journal.


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