By KAREN RAY
For the Las Cruces Bulletin
A short hike above the valley floor provides beautiful panoramic views of the Rio Grande winding its way south and a crazy quilt of late summer agriculture. Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID) has once again fulfilled its mission of delivering life-giving surface water to farms, ranches, backyards and restoration areas from the Hatch and Rincon Valleys down through the Mesilla Valley to El Paso, Texas and on to the border with Mexico.
In spite of the lingering drought and a short irrigation season, the well-oiled team of producers and EBID have worked together to make careful use of the limited water available. Irrigation Systems Director James Narvaez reports that the 2018 year-to-date farm deliveries of surface water were 8,204. This translates to 139,395 acres irrigated with a diversion of 127,487 acre feet of water. These numbers illustrate just a part of the effort and commitment required to transform water resources into food and fiber.
In addition to the planned surface water allocations, the District’s stormwater capture efforts were also beneficial. As of the District’s August board meeting more than 900 acre feet of stormwater was captured and utilized for irrigation and recharging the groundwater aquifer.
The bounty is ripening: cotton fields turning white, heavy pecan crops in neatly spaced orchard rows and, of course, the chile fields dotting the landscape.
Early onions added to salsa and were shipped out to the world. Animals have thrived on the forages produced and harvested, turning Sudan grass and multiple cuts of alfalfa into fast horses and strong cow ponies, steaks and carnitas, milk, cheese and ice cream.
As these crops finish their growing cycles, fields of late-planted fall lettuce and cabbage are half grown and well on their way to market ready.
EBID employees don’t kick back this time of year, however. After the water deliveries are completed they begin a long list of maintenance activities until next water season.
District Maintenance Director Leo Barrett says their primary focus will be general canal cleaning and maintenance, getting the system prepped for next year.
There will also be construction projects, including removing the Rincon Bridge structure and replacing it with a new culvert and check structure for improved water delivery. The California Extension, a lateral fed off of the Rio Grande at the Mesilla Dam, will acquire a large box structure with District crews performing the construction and concrete work. Barrett’s crews will also expend time and resources addressing the maintenance needs of flood control dams. Staying on top of the preventive and rehabilitative requirements of these aging infrastructures that protect so much of the valley is an ongoing job.
EBID hopes you enjoy the bounty of this harvest season from our area farmers and continue to support EBID’s employees as they continue working to make our valleys even more productive and water-efficient during this maintenance season. Pray for rain and a good winter snowpack to begin to fill Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs for next year’s irrigation season.