Rio Grande River drying up

Posted at: 07/08/2013 6:32 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico’s biggest river has a dramatic new look this week as it flows through Albuquerque.

It’s drying up.

The Rio Grande has less and less water in it and more and more sand. Just south of the Central Avenue Bridge you can see a lot more sand bars sticking out of the muddy water than you could see last week. There’s no more irrigation water behind the dams upstream. The only water in the river is some of the dwindling supply left for the Indian pueblos and the endangered silvery minnow.

“There’s more water down here than there is up near Alameda where we started our bike ride today,” said Vicki Pitcher, taking a quick break on one of the new observation decks on the river bank near Tingley Beach.  “It’s really kind of sad. I hate to see the whole thing drying up. It worries me that that’s just the way the state is going.”

“If you cross one of the river bridges you’ll see a lot more islands out there,” said hydrologist David Gensler of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. “We’re going to have less than half as much water entering the middle valley as what we’ve had all year long, and it may go down from there.”

Eventually the Albuquerque stretch of the Rio Grande will look like it does about 25 miles south of town, near Los Lunas. More sand, less water, every day.  The Rio will almost certainly go dry south of Isleta Pueblo this summer. It did that last year, and the year before. In this third straight summer of extreme drought, it’s likely to happen even earlier this time around.

There is no more irrigation water for farmers from Cochiti Lake to Elephant Butte, and it’s expected to run out for farmers south of the Butte later this week.