ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — An irrigation district that provides water to farmers throughout the Middle Rio Grande Valley is curtailing water deliveries, officials announced Friday.
The suspension of the deliveries was caused by sporadic rainfalls and inadequate water storage in El Vado Reservoir, according to the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.
New water deliveries to Water Bank users will halt until further notice.
Under the conservancy district's policy, each water-bank lease is subject to curtailment in times of shortage.
The district established target water levels, both at El Vado Reservoir and the flows in the Rio Grande, as triggers to curtail deliveries to Water Bank users.
Lake levels at Heron, El Vado and Elephant Butte are all expected to drop by the end of the year.
Officials blamed below-average snowpack in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico for this year's limited water supplies.
Farmers in southern New Mexico and parts of Texas who depend on the river were expecting to get about 6 inches of water to irrigate each acre this season. That's double what they received last year, but only a fraction of a full allotment.
New Mexico is entering its fourth consecutive year of drought after one of the driest winters on record. The drought reached unprecedented levels last summer, and nearly 70 percent of the state is still in severe drought with little promise of moisture this spring. A recent forecast from the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service shows spring and summer stream flows in New Mexico have been less than half of average and in some cases less than 25 percent of average.
New Mexico has weathered the drought through piecemeal responses such as temporary water-sharing agreements and watering restrictions.