The next meeting of the Rio Grande Compact Commission is March 21 in Austin, TX

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

[Colorado Division of Water Recourses Division III Division Engineer Craig Cotten] explained that this year’s annual compact meeting would likely be more contentious than others in recent history, mainly because of the dispute between New Mexico and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The bureau operates Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs, the main storage reservoirs for Rio Grande Compact water. New Mexico claimed that the bureau last year released from the Elephant Butte Reservoir about 30,000 acre feet of credit water belonging to New Mexico and Colorado, which it did not have a right to release…

New Mexico sued the Bureau of Reclamation, and that case is pending in U.S. District Court. Cotten said as far as he knew, the state of New Mexico is not asking for a monetary settlement but is seeking a decision “to say that the Bureau of Reclamation does not have unilateral authority to make those changes and some other issues the State of New Mexico has been fighting the bureau on that are part of that whole litigation. It’s a big issue.”

Colorado water authorities agree with New Mexico but are trying to stay out of the litigation, according to Cotten, primarily because Colorado has such a small portion of credit water in compact storage, compared to New Mexico. Colorado has about 2,600 acre feet of credit water, like liquid cash in the bank. New Mexico, on the other hand, has almost 100,000 acre feet of credit water stored in Elephant Butte…

Cotten added that the water levels in the Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs are very low right now, sitting at about 394,000 acre feet, of which only about 266,000 acre feet is useable water, unencumbered for use downstream. Less than 400,000 acre feet total reservoir storage is very low, especially considering the storage capacity in those reservoirs is about 2.2 million acre feet, Cotten explained…

Ditches have not started running yet, and are not scheduled to begin diversions until after the first of April. Cotten indicated the greater amount of water that could run downriver now, the lesser amounts would have to be curtailed later on. At this point he is estimating a 15-percent curtailment on the Rio Grande and 20 percent on the Conejos River system at the beginning of the irrigation season, but he said “those curtailments are very fluid” and dependent on what happens in the next few weeks.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.

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