A Shortage Of Water Means Not A Drop To Spare

Jan 8, 2014

Credit Laura Paskus/KUNM

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently warned water contractors all the way from Red River, north of Taos, to Belen, south of Albuquerque, that for the first time ever there may be a shortage of water due to drought. Over a dozen contractors use water from the San Juan-Chama Project for drinking and irrigation.

The water transfer system takes water via a series of underground tunnels from the San Juan River Basin, east, to the Rio Grande in order to boost flow along the states main water artery. 

Mary Carlson with Bureau of Reclamation said everyone hurts when there is a water shortage. "What we have in storage right now is about 28 percent of a full allocation," she said. "Now, we're looking to see how we can divide that amongst the contractors."

Fifty percent of Albuquerque's drinking water comes from the San-Juan Chama Project. David Morris with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority explained they have been storing water in anticipation of a situation like this.

"You know obviously we encourage people to continue using water responsibly," Morris said. "Just because we have supplies in reserve isn't a license to go out and be wasteful."

Permits and lease agreements require contractors to ease their use when flows in the river reach a critical point. Water is also leased back to the Bureau of Reclamation in order to ensure there is adequate water for the endangered silvery minnow in southern New Mexico. It's unclear what will happen if water levels are not replenished during the later half of this winter.