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Published March 27, 2013
New Mexico Reservoir Volumes(data through 2/28/13)
Data Source(s): National Water and Climate Center
Combined water storage in New Mexico’s reservoirs increased slightly compared to one month ago, primarily due to an increase in the level of Elephant Butte Reservoir (Figure 7). Reservoir storage often increases during this time of year as snows begin to melt in the higher elevations.
As of February 28, combined storage on the four reservoirs on the Pecos River was about 1.7 percent of capacity, which is well below average and about 2,300 acre-feet less than one year ago. Reservoirs on the Rio Grande are also extremely low as a result of well-below-average runoff years in 2011 and 2012. Low storage will continue to be a major issue for New Mexico this year because precipitation in the headwaters of the Rio Grande in Colorado—which supplies a large fraction of the total water to the river—was about 70 percent of average through mid-March. Consequently, projections for spring streamflows call for well-below-average flows, with the best estimate suggesting the combined March–July streamflow will be around 55 percent of the historical average. Even if several late winter storms douse the Upper Rio Grande Basin, water storage will remain very low; irrigators in the Elephant Butte Irrigation District in southern New Mexico likely will experience another season of reduced allotments. It will take several years of above-average rain and snow to improve the situation on both the Pecos and Rio Grande.
The map gives a representation of current storage for reservoirs in New Mexico. Reservoir locations are numbered within the blue circles on the map, corresponding to the reservoirs listed in the table. The cup next to each reservoir shows the current storage (blue fill) as a percent of total capacity. Note that while the size of each cup varies with the size of the reservoir, these are representational and not to scale. Each cup also represents last year’s storage (dotted line) and the 1971–2000 reservoir average (red line).
The table details more exactly the current capacity (listed as a percent of maximum storage). Current and maximum storage are given in thousands of acre-feet for each reservoir. One acre-foot is the volume of water sufficient to cover an acre of land to a depth of 1 foot (approximately 325,851 gallons). On average, 1 acre-foot of water is enough to meet the demands of 4 people for a year. The last column of the table list an increase or decrease in storage since last month. A line indicates no change.
These data are based on reservoir reports updated monthly by the National Water and Climate Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Portions of the information provided in this figure can be accessed at the NRCS website:
Southwest Climate Outlook Staff
- Michael Crimmins, UA Extension Specialist
- Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment Editor
- Gregg Garfin, Founding Editor, Institute of the Environment
- Zack Guido, Managing Editor, CLIMAS Associate Staff Scientist
- Nancy J. Selover, Arizona State Climatologist
- Jessica Dollin, CLIMAS Publications Assistant
- Dave Dubious, New Mexico State Climatologist
Please direct your Southwest Climate Outlook comments and suggestions to Zack Guido.
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