Southwestern US rivers get boost from winter snowpack

Apr 18, 2023, 4:26 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal water managers have more room to breathe this spring as two Southwestern rivers that provide New Mexico and Texas with drinking water and irrigation supplies are seeing the benefits of record snowpack and spring runoff.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service delivered the good news Tuesday for water managers, cities and farmers as federal officials rolled out operating plans for the Rio Grande and the Pecos River.

The mountain ranges in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico that serve as headwaters for the two rivers last winter saw nearly double the snowpack of historic averages, resulting in runoff that will provide a major boost to reservoirs.

And even more of that snowmelt will reach streams and rivers since soil moisture levels were able to recover last summer during what was one of the strongest monsoons the region had seen in 130 years.

“This is really good news for us because one of the big things that’s been killing water supply for the last 10, 15 years is really dry soils soaking up a lot of that runoff before we could ever get any of it. That is not going to be the case nearly as much this year,” said Andrew Mangham, a senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service. “We’re going to have a much more efficient runoff coming out of this.”

The same story is playing out around the West. In California, most of that state’s major reservoirs were the snowfall was so overwhelming that the final day of the high school ski championships had to be cancelled.

Many of the officials gathered for Tuesday’s river briefing were combing their collective memories, trying to recall when they last saw hydrology graphs this favorable.

“We’re in better shape than we’ve been for a real long time,” Mangham said.

New Mexico’s largest cities that rely on diverted water from the San Juan and Chama rivers are expected to get a full allocation this year — the first time since 2019.

The Carlsbad Irrigation District on the southern end of the Pecos River opted to allocate a bit more to farmers this year due to the increased runoff.

“With the snowmelt coming in and still the chance for the monsoon season, things are looking pretty good,” said Coley Burgess, the irrigation district’s manager.

Still, he said farmers have had to be economical about how they use what amounts to just a little over half of a full allotment. Some have left fields unplanted so they can shift their share of water to their best alfalfa crops.

On the Rio Grande, managers say they have enough water stored in Elephant Butte — the largest reservoir in New Mexico — to avoid restrictions that prevent storing water in some upstream reservoirs. Under a water sharing agreement with Colorado and Texas, New Mexico is required to deliver a certain amount to Texas each year.

The states also are tangled up in litigation over management of the Rio Grande that is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. A special master is considering a proposed settlement that would resolve the decade-long fight.

Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in New Mexico said whether the state can keep enough water in Elephant Butte later this year will depend on the monsoon season.

Farmers across southern New Mexico and in West Texas will be crossing their fingers, too.

United States News

Associated Press

Kevin Bacon dances back to “Footloose” high school

PAYSON, Utah (AP) — Actor Kevin Bacon on Saturday returned to the Utah high school where the cult classic movie “Footloose” was filmed more than 40 years. Bacon danced his way to a stage on a Payson High School athletic field Saturday to greet students before what likely was the final prom held at the […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Arkansas teen held on murder charge after fatal shooting outside party after high school prom

HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas teen is in custody on a first-degree murder charge in connection with the fatal shooting of a high school senior outside a party early Sunday following a high school prom. Donterious Stephens, 19, of Helena, turned himself in to authorities Sunday afternoon in the shooting death of Lorenzo […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Terry Anderson, AP reporter held captive for years, has died

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Terry Anderson, the globe-trotting Associated Press correspondent who became one of America’s longest-held hostages after he was snatched from a street in war-torn Lebanon in 1985 and held for nearly seven years, has died at 76. Anderson, who chronicled his abduction and torturous imprisonment by Islamic militants in his best-selling 1993 […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Suspect in killing of Idaho sheriff’s deputy fatally shot by police, authorities say

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho sheriff’s deputy died after being shot by a driver during a traffic stop, and a man believed to be the shooting suspect was later fatally shot by police, authorities said Sunday. Deputy Tobin Bolter was shot as he approached the driver’s window at about 9 p.m. Saturday in Boise, […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Woman, 18, dies after being shot at Delaware State University; campus closed

DOVER, Del. (AP) — An 18-year-old woman died after she was shot on the campus of Delaware State University on Sunday, authorities said. Dover police said officers responded at about 1:40 a.m. to a report of shots on the campus. Police said an 18-year-old Wilmington woman who was not a registered student was found with […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

North Carolina medical marijuana sales begin at Cherokee store

CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) — Medical marijuana can now be legally purchased in North Carolina with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opening its long-planned dispensary this weekend on tribal land. Hundreds of people, many with approved medical patient cards to purchase items, celebrated the historic opening of the Great Smoky Cannabis Co. on Saturday within […]

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Southwestern US rivers get boost from winter snowpack