Pumped by two huge diesel engines on the west bank of the Rio Grande, irrigation water continues to flow onto Corrales fields —for now. But without a helpful monsoon season this summer to replenish reservoirs upstream, farmers here can expect severe reductions in water deliveries from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy  District (MRGCD), perhaps as early as August or September.

In late January, the MRGCD’s acting chief engineer, Jason Casuga, warned irrigators here and elsewhere in the service area “to expect significant changes to irrigation delivery during the 2022 irrigation season” since water managers  have “little storage water available, and will depend on natural river inflows for irrigation deliveries.” But that was not the worse of it.

For decades, the water for irrigation in Corrales has been pumped from the river at a topographically optimal location, La Angostura, a location where the  river narrows and therefore deepens,  into a main canal that passes through mainly tribal lands before pouring water into the Corrales Main Canal at the extreme north end of the village. The water pumped from the river at the Angostura Diversion Dam near Algodones has come into Corrales through a large pipe, or culvert, under the river bed as a result of  hydraulic siphon action. That 80 year old pipe, constructed with what resemble wooden barrel staves, is called the Corrales Siphon. But it broke.

A potential problem was discovered nearly a decade ago when tell-tale ripples could be seen on the water’s surface, indicating the river was roiling over something submerged. Then those ripples became rapids. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXII No.16 October 5, 2013 “River Bed’s Drop Disturbs Buried Irrigation Culvert.”) At first MRGCD officials hoped the old 1,000 foot long wooden pipe could withstand the turbulence, at least until a temporary fix could be implemented. But as Casuga told Corrales Comment earlier this year,  “it’s anticipated that water deliveries to the Corrales Main Canal and the laterals and acequia fed by the Main Canal will be significantly impacted due to the recent discovery of damage to the Corrales siphon pipe,” he said, adding “The damage to the siphon is likely to prevent the use of the siphon altogether.”

To keep sufficient water flowing to the Corrales Main Canal, MRGCD officials decided to temporarily set up diesel-powered pumps on the river bank to draw water directly from the river, and pipe that a short distance to the Main Canal.

As of April 15, water seemed to be flowing more or less normally in Corrales’ irrigation ditches.

Even so, Casuga urged farmers here and elsewhere to leave their fields fallow this year if possible, with an offer of financial compensation for irrigators “who voluntarily forego irrigation this season.”

Information about the MRGCD’s Emergency Fallowing Program can be found by contacting Casey Ish by email ing to casey@mrgcd.us or by phoning 505-259-8799.

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