Rio Grande Basin Study Underway

The Rio Grande Basin Study–Lobatos Gage to Elephant Butte Dam, is getting underway.  Local Bureau of Reclamation staff have worked for over a year to get Reclamation’s formal approval of the basin study Memorandum of Agreement and Plan of Study. The final signature is reportedly imminent.

The Basin Study will use the best available models of the Rio Grande to evaluate a wide range of climate change and adaptation scenarios.  The study is using the full suite of the International Panel on Climate Changes climate models downscaled to the Rio Grande Basin. Participants will decide on the adaptation scenarios that will be modeled and evaluated.

Twenty-five entities including the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the Interstate Stream Commission, Bernalillo County, the Pueblo of Santa Ana, acequias, and non-profit organizations are partners in this study.  Six additional entities will also become partners when they affirm the most recent changes to the Agreement.  

These entities are organized into sectors, which include Agriculture, National NGOs, Pueblo and Tribal, Community Organizations, water purveyors, and others.  The Community Organizations sector was convened in 2020 by the Middle Rio Grande Water Advocates.  The Water Advocates will reconvene this sector and resume work now that the Basin Study will officially proceed.

Unfortunately, the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority dropped out.  As one of the 800 lb gorillas in the Middle Rio Grande, the basin study needs the Water Authority’s participation.    The Water Authority’s 100-year water plan does not consider Rio Grande Compact limitations on total water use in the Middle Rio Grande.  That disparity needs resolution.

The Rio Grande Water Security Act, sponsored by the entire New Mexico congressional delegation, would federally authorize this basin study, which would give the basin study more power to help determine New Mexico’s water future.   “The Rio Grande Water Security Act, for the first time ever will provide support for stakeholder-driven solutions across the entire Basin to ensure the Rio Grande can flow for generations to come.”

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