New Mexico reservoirs get boost from late-summer rains

Associated Press

Reservoirs in southern New Mexico have gotten a much needed boost from late-summer rains.

The levels at Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs have climbed in recent weeks as a result of runoff making its way down arroyos and other channels that drain into the lakes.

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Elephant Butte's volume increase by nearly 25 percent as an extra 41,000 acre-feet flowed into the lake, according to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. An acre-foot is nearly 326,000 gallons, or enough to cover a football field with a foot of water.

The reservoir is about 8.5 percent full.

Bert Cortez, who works with the bureau in El Paso, Texas, said that other than local precipitation, there's not much water entering the lakes.

"There is very little water reaching our reservoirs from releases from upstream reservoirs so it's reasonable to say that most of the increase is due to rainfall," he told the Las Cruces Sun-News in an article published Tuesday (http://bit.ly/1BNhhN2 ).

Lakes around New Mexico have dropped to record lows over the past couple of years because of unprecedented drought conditions. Despite meaningful rain last month, more than 60 percent of the state continues to deal with some level of drought.

However, New Mexico has made strides from just three months ago, when drought covered nearly all of the state.

Like Elephant Butte, Caballo gained about 9,100 acre-feet of water due to the rain.

Farmers from throughout the lower Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico, El Paso area and parts of Mexico rely on water that flows from the reservoirs.

While the extra water isn't as much as in 2013, it's still a positive sign for the state parks surrounding the reservoirs, said Elephant Butte Lake State Parks Superintendent Kay Dunlap.

"Definitely any time the lake levels increase, it's a benefit to us," she said.

Dunlap said the more water Caballo has to start off the spring 2015 irrigation season, the less Elephant Butte will have to release.

Dunlap and officials with the Elephant Butte Irrigation District say they're hopeful winter precipitation will help boost lake levels further.

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com