Water forecast doesn't bode well for area farmers

Posted at: 12/18/2012 5:27 PM
Updated at: 12/18/2012 6:24 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The drought sinks its dehydrated fangs even deeper into New Mexico's farmers and ranchers, with a grim new forecast for next spring's irrigation water.

Last spring, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District had about 105,000 acre-feet of water stored in upstream reservoirs. Next spring, they figure they'll have only about 21,600 acre-feet - about 20 percent of last spring's water supply.

"Fortunately, several years ago we were able to pack away a pretty good amount in storage at El Vado reservoir and we've made that last now for several years," said District hydrologist David Gensler. "Last summer we used up the last of it and we don't have that much sitting up there any more."

There is water shooting through the San Acacia Dam on the Rio Grande in Socorro County, but most of it will wind up watering fields in Texas next spring, not New Mexico. That's interstate stream business, and farmers said in a drought a raw deal just got rawer. This may be one of the worst years since the drought of the 1950s.

"We can hope for a good snowpack," said Corky Herkenhoffer, who raises hay and cattle in San Acacia. "In the past we've gone through this. I've gone through it for 50 years on and off and we've never been really severely damaged. We've had some pretty bad years."

Gensler said not to count on that snowpack.

"The snowpack is not exciting, to say the least. There hasn't been a lot of snow up there yet. It's still early in the season, a lot can happen. But if we don't get additional snows this year it can be a pretty tough situation for us in the spring," the hydrologist said.

"It's the nature of the business," said Valencia County farmer Michael Lundmark. "It's the risk we take as farmers. We're going to have to deal with it and hopefully we can steer our practices, steer the conservancy district in the future so that we become more efficient."