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Water Resources Issues in the Lower Rio Grande. June 3, 2005 J. Phillip King, P.E. Assc. Professor/Assc. Dept. Head Dept. of Civil Engineering, NMSU Consultant, EBID. Major LRG Water Issues. Drought and Project Water Allocation – Reclamation, EBID, El Paso #1, Mexico

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water resources issues in the lower rio grande

Water Resources Issuesin the Lower Rio Grande

June 3, 2005

J. Phillip King, P.E.

Assc. Professor/Assc. Dept. Head

Dept. of Civil Engineering, NMSU

Consultant, EBID

major lrg water issues
Major LRG Water Issues
  • Drought and Project Water Allocation – Reclamation, EBID, El Paso #1, Mexico
  • Active Water Resource Management (AWRM) alternative administration regulations – OSE, Lower Rio Grande Water Users Organization (LRGWUO)
  • Conversion of surface water to non – agricultural uses in LRG – EBID, Las Cruces, Doña Ana MDWCA, OSE
surface water groundwater interaction in the lrg

Caballo

Release

ET

Precip

Conveyance

System

Diversion

Bypass (spill)

Delivery

Irrigated

Land

ET

Precip

Atmosphere

Rio Grande

Pumping

Deep Percolation

Seepage

Imported Water

Exported Water

Groundwater

Seepage

Exfiltration

M&I

Users

Bypass (spill)

Pumping

Drainage

Deep Perc.

Drain

Flows

Discharges

Return

Pumping

Deep Percolation

ET Precip

Non-irrigated

Land

Storm

Flow

Rio Grande

at El Paso

Surface Water-Groundwater Interaction in the LRG
water use by sector in lrg
Water Use by Sector in LRG

97 percent of LRG water use is irrigation or public water systems

the rio grande project
The Rio Grande Project
  • Water rights appropriated January 23, 1906
  • 90,640 water-righted acres in Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID) in New Mexico
  • 69,010 water-righted acres in El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 (EPCWID) in Texas
  • 60,000 acre-feet of water for the Republic of Mexico by the Treaty of 1906
  • Construction largely completed by 1917; drainage system built in 1920s
  • Operated as a single irrigation system by Bureau of Reclamation
  • City of El Paso began treating surface water in 1940s
  • Districts paid off construction costs in late 1970s
current project water allocation
Current Project Water Allocation
  • BOR allocates water to US districts and Mexico
    • Based on water available for release storage and actual river efficiency
    • Mexico gets their water first, and the remainder is divided between EBID and EP#1 proportionately (57%/43%)
  • Districts allot water to farmers based on BOR allocation and system conveyance efficiency
drought response
Drought Response
  • Conjunctive management of surface water and groundwater
    • Robust river-connected aquifer used for agriculture, M&I, domestic use
    • Short surface water supplies prompt increased groundwater withdrawals
    • Groundwater withdrawals affect river efficiency
motivation for awrm
Motivation for AWRM
  • Manage surface water and groundwater intelligently to maximize beneficial use in New Mexico
  • Maintain hydrologic health of the LRG
  • Protect senior water rights from impairment in the absence of a completed adjudication
  • Protect downstream users in Texas and Mexico from overuse in LRG
  • Provide mechanisms for out-of-priority users to offset impacts on senior and downstream water users
complications
Complications
  • Rio Grande Operating Agreement
  • Project authority over surface water, OSE authority over groundwater
  • Lack of clarity in relationship between surface water and groundwater rights
  • Junior basic necessities
current status of awrm
Current Status of AWRM
  • State-wide regulations finalized
  • Metering order issued for all groundwater diversions in LRG except single domestic wells
  • State is developing draft basin-specific regulations for LRG to be released for review by LRGWUO in May - delayed 2 months
  • LRGWUO directed technical committee to develop alternative administrative plan
foundations for special water users associations
Foundations for Special Water Users Associations
  • Developed by EBID, City of Las Cruces, and the State Engineer
  • EBID Policy 2003-GA8, approved November 19, 2003
  • 73-10-48 NMSA
swuas
SWUAs
  • Allow entity to use surface water for M&I and other uses within District boundaries
    • Ownership of Project Water rights
    • Lease of Project Water rights
    • Transfer of Project Water
swua details
SWUA Details
  • Assessed as EBID constituents
  • Share pro rata in shortages
  • Surface water rights maintain EBID’s 1906 priority date
  • SWUA must lease all of the water from a parcel; land must be fallowed
  • Special Combined Unit: Small tracts (<2 acres) can be consolidated and treated as farm tract for ordering and billing
  • Maintained as Ag use until demand for direct M&I use develops
existing system of annual water transfers

Total Allotment

Agricultural Users

Agricultural

Water Used

Conservation

Pool

Existing System of Annual Water Transfers
structure for transfers of water to special water users associations
Structure for Transfers of Water to Special Water Users Associations

Total Allotment

Leases:

Parties Negotiate

Price

Agricultural Users

SWUA

Agricultural

Water Used

Municipal

Water (SWTP)

Agricultural

Pool

Conservation Pool:

Municipal

Pool

who can form swuas
Who Can Form SWUAs?
  • Municipalities
  • Counties
  • State Universities
  • Member-owned community systems
  • Public utilities
  • Interstate Stream Commission
relationship of swuas to awrm
Relationship of SWUAs to AWRM
  • SWUAs provide an alternative to strict priority administration
    • SWUAs allow junior users to move up in seniority/priority
    • Common priority date among EBID SWUAs and irrigators create pro rata sharing of shortages
  • Market-driven process