The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District started charging irrigation laterals and canals on Wednesday, March 1, in preparation for the 2017 irrigation season.
MRGCD Water Operations Manager David Gensler says the district is preparing for a normal irrigation season.
“So far, the snow pack and winter moisture has been very promising for this time of year and we hope this will continue well into late spring.
“There is above-average snow pack in the northern mountains, around 40,000 acre-feet of water in storage at El Vado Reservoir, and the district plans to store more during the spring runoff. It look like a good runoff is in the forecast where high river flows may persist through early June a condition we have not seen since 2005,” added Gensler.
Diversions started at the Angostura and Isleta dams on Wednesday. Diversion into the Belen Division systems started on the west side Wednesday and the east side will be flushed starting by this weekend.
Some of that water will also be sent to the Socorro division that started charging that part of the system on March 2. Diversions for the Cochiti Division will not begin until mid-March.
Depending upon where farms are located within the 1,200-mile system (150 river miles), scheduling will be phased in as the system is charged. The Irrigation System Operators (ISOs, formerly referred to as ditch riders) are extremely busy getting canals cleaned, flushed and operating properly in order to run water through the entire system during this startup period.
Those who absolutely need water for early plantings can call their ISO and these farms will be scheduled as soon as possible. The assessment is that there are better soil moisture conditions and cooler temperatures than this time last year so most forage crops (pasture and alfalfa) should be do well until the first irrigation is available in mid-March or later depending upon where the farm is in the system.
Updates on the current snow pack conditions, run-off projections for the mid-valley and an irrigation forecast will be posted on the district’s website and updated weekly throughout the irrigation season.
“These updates give irrigators a chance to know how much water is available and how they should schedule their water. We ask that our farmers be patient with us early in March to allow us to completely water up the system which will allow us to get everyone scheduled efficiently” says CEO/Chief Engineer Mike Hamman. “Our top priority is to give all irrigators the opportunity for a successful season and strive to do so in the most cost effective and efficient manner. The District has numerous challenges including compliance with the Endangered Species Act that protects our water and diversion rights to meet the needs of the irrigators as well as all our constituents that enjoy the incredible Rio Grande valley and the services we provide within the District.”
Irrigation in the Middle Rio Grande Valley generally runs from March 1 to Oct. 31.