ALBUQUERQUE ― Flows through the Middle Rio Grande and Rio Chama are on the rise as the spring runoff is supplemented with water from El Vado Reservoir for the benefit of the environment and endangered species.
The Bureau of Reclamation, New Mexico Office of the State Engineer and Interstate Stream Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and Rio Chama Watershed Partnership came together to create this coordinated flow event.
“This is a great example of what can happen when everyone works together for the benefit of our river systems,” said Jennifer Faler, Albuquerque Area Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.
The higher flows on both rivers will provide a great opportunity for recreation this Memorial Day weekend, but the public should use caution as water levels are higher and moving faster than we’ve experienced in recent years.
The release from El Vado to Abiquiu is currently at 2,000 cubic feet per second. That will double by Wednesday and then will begin dropping back down to about 2,000 cubic feet per second by Friday. It will remain at that level for a couple of weeks.
This flow, which is beneficial to the ecosystem of the Rio Chama, includes the bypass of the inflow to El Vado Reservoir as well as the scheduled release of water stored with approval of the Rio Grande Compact states of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. This agreement allowed for the storage of close to 40,000 acre-feet of water in El Vado between May 2 and May 20.
The Rio Grande Compact Commission approved a resolution to allow for the temporary modification of storage operations at El Vado at its March meeting.
“This collaborative operation has multiple benefits,” said State Engineer and Rio Grande Compact Commissioner Tom Blaine. “Not only does it continue to provide water to allocated users, it also helps the restoration efforts for endangered species.”
The release from Abiquiu Reservoir is scheduled to rise to about 1,800 cubic feet per second by Wednesday and continue for approximately two weeks. The release from Cochiti Dam will be close to 3,300 for about two weeks. This flow will also benefit the entire ecosystem and is aimed at signaling the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow to spawn.
Minnow numbers have been low in recent years as the drought has continued. However, a better spring runoff last year helped support a slight improvement in minnow abundance. Monitoring for silvery minnow eggs will be conducted throughout this operation.