A $2 million lease to keep the Rio Grande river flowing through Albuquerque, New Mexico has been reached between federal water managers and a major utility.
The lease was approved recently by the board of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and will provide the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation with more water to preserve the flow of the Rio Grande.
The river is considered to be one of North America’s longest and is noted for its deep canyons in northern New Mexico near Taos.
The lease agreement comes as the state grapples with an ongoing severe drought. Like the rest of the American Southwest, a dismal winter resulted in little snowpack and historically low spring runoff and summer rains have been spotty at best.
Irrigation managers in the Middle Rio Grande Valley warned this week that within days they will exhaust the last of their stored water, leaving the river to its meager natural flows.
The lease agreement gives federal managers up to 20,000 acre-feet to supplement the river with the goal of keeping it wet at least through October. An acre-foot is enough to supply a typical U.S. household for a year.
More than one-third of New Mexico is dealing with the worst categories of drought, including a large swath of the Four Corners region where the state borders Arizona, Colorado and Utah.