Elephant Butte Irrigation District and its constituent agricultural producers here in southern New Mexico, have been watching weather data throughout the winter and spring and applauding news of Colorado’s additional snowstorms. What will this mean for EBID’s surface water allotment? Farmers rely on this early information to plan the crop production cycles that keep us all fed and clothed.
During yesterday’s regularly scheduled board meeting EBID’s board of directors increased last month’s initial surface water allotment of six inches (6”) up to 10 inches (10”) for the 2019 irrigation season. The adjustment is made pending finalization at a May 22nd allocation meeting involving El Paso County Water Improvement District #1, the Bureau of Reclamation, Mexico and EBID.
Dr. Phil King, EBID engineering consultant, provided a water resource update to the District board. Snow accumulation was productive during February and March up in the Rio Grande headwaters, he said, “…and the runoff is just beginning. It’s still looking like a banner year.” He also noted, “This is the clearest drought map we’ve seen since maybe the 1990s…we are expecting further improvement in drought conditions in the 4 Corners area.” Final runoff performance is still unknown as the impact of years of dry watershed conditions may absorb much of the moisture before it makes it to Elephant Butte Reservoir. However, we can be encouraged that the storage level in Elephant Butte Reservoir, which sat at 3% of capacity on October 1, is up to 19% now.
The release date remains the same at the end of May with diversions to begin on or about June 1. Irrigation Systems Director James Narvaez says EBID’s Water Records Office will begin taking orders on May 20. The District board has set the Flat Rate (Small Tract) Irrigation Weekend for June 8-9.
“The end of the year allotment will likely be limited by the late start of the season,” King says. Ag producers are already planning accordingly as they balance the water requirements of their crops, determine irrigation schedules and decide whether they must use groundwater or surface water sources. King says “It’s in everyone’s best interest to get as much surface water as possible out there” as this helps improve groundwater aquifer health.
EBID continually monitors winter snowpack and subsequent runoff, making adjustments to water management plans as needed throughout the season. Please refer to the EBID website www.ebid-nm.org for important updates on the Irrigation Season. You can also follow us on FaceBook for additional information.