Due to ongoing severe drought conditions, the Bureau of Reclamation (“Reclamation”) has leased water supplies to maintain flows in the Middle Rio Grande for the endangered silvery minnow. Under Colorado River Compact and the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact and consistent with a December 2016 Biological Opinion, Reclamation is required to make beneficial consumptive use of the water. In practice, that means that leased project water is provided to irrigators, who then forego diversion of native supplies after their irrigation storage is exhausted.
Reclamation executed a lease for up to 20,000 AF of stored San Juan Chama Project water from Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (“ABCWUA”). The water will be called for and released from Abiqui Reservoir as needed, and Reclamation will pay $100/AF for water released.
Leadership in the participating agencies made comments to help the public understand the need for Reclamation to lease water.
Reclamation’s area manager noted that the extremely dry year and near record low snowpack made it a “critical time” and that agreements such as this “…effectively balance water needs within the Middle Rio Grande…”
As water supplies run low in northern reservoirs, it’s important for the public to understand that this agreement is essentially what’s keeping water flowing in the Albuquerque reach of the Rio Grande,” said Trudy E. Jones, Albuquerque City Councilor and Chair of the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s governing board.
Written by Marta L. Weismann