Corrales crops dependent on ditch irrigation should survive to harvest despite the drought, meager flows from southern Colorado’s slopes and extreme temperatures. In mid-July, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District successfully sought permission from Texas and Colorado through the Interstate Stream Commission to use about 38,000 acre-feet of stored water.
Otherwise, MRGCD officials said the Rio Grande would have dried up along this stretch of the river and depleted water flowing to irrigation ditches. On July 17, the MRGCD issued a statement that it “was anticipating running out of its general irrigation water supplies in upstream reservoirs by Saturday morning [July 18] that would have led to extensive river drying and devastating crop losses throughout the middle Rio Grande valley.”
State Engineer John D’Antonio, who serves on the Rio Grande Compact, said the agreement specifies that the “borrowed” water be used judiciously to prevent catastrophic cross losses and minimize impacts to endangered species.
In the July 17 statement, MRGCD noted that the agreement was “an exceptional occurrence, but also cautionary. “The district is informing the public and our water users that although we may squeeze by this year, without significant precipitation, we can expect to have in excess of 100,000 acre-feet debt to downstream users next year. This water must be replaced as soon as possible to prevent harm to irrigation districts below Elephant Butte Dam and, by the rules of the compact, may also severely limit the district’s use of El Vado Reservoir in future years.”
This is the first time since the 1950s that such an emergency use of stored water has been implemented. Earlier this summer, MRGCD halted water deliveries arranged through its water bank. As of July 19, the 2020 monsoon season had produced only scant sprinklings of rain.