State engineer says conserve water

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The Office of the State Engineer and New Mexico Intestate Stream Commission encourages New Mexicans to plan ahead for drought and engage in water conservation. Farmers and ranchers are particularly vulnerable to drought impacts and we encourage our agriculture community to plan ahead.

The National Resource Conservation Service has published its most probable snowmelt runoff forecast for spring 2014, and the forecast is for “Less Than Average” to “Significantly Less Than Average” snowmelt runoff from mountains in New Mexico.

The forecast assumes average rain and snow will occur over the next few months. Most probable forecast runoff ranges from a high of about 70 percent of average near the border with Colorado to around 30 percent on the Rio Grande entering Elephant Butte Reservoir, and the Jemez and Mimbres rivers.

“New Mexicans may face another dry summer,” State Engineer Scott Verhines said. “It’s important that we have water administration agreements in place to mitigate conflict. For example, the shortage sharing agreement reached last summer on the Rio Chama avoided a priority call and provided for an irrigation season. We are working to implement Active Water Resource Management in critical basins as a longer-term solution to variable water supplies.”

The Office of the State Engineer is charged with administering the state’s water resources. The State Engineer has power over the supervision, measurement, appropriation, and distribution of all surface and groundwater in New Mexico, including streams and rivers that cross state boundaries.

Greater than average precipitation will be needed the next few months in order to have average runoff this spring, despite recent snow in New Mexico providing some small benefit.

“Drought is persisting in New Mexico,” Interstate Stream Commission Director Estevan L√≥pez said. “Unfortunately, less than average snowmelt means there will be less water in our rivers.”

He said less water in our rivers adds pressure to the environment, the irrigators and the statewide economy.

“Water conservation is one of our best tools to build drought resiliency,” Lopez said.