Monsoon rains bring badly needed water to thousands of NM farmers

Posted at: 07/15/2014 6:00 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The monsoon rains are bringing badly needed water to thousands of New Mexico farmers whose irrigation ditches were pretty close to running dry this summer. That was the situation in the village of San Acacia, on the Rio Grande north of Socorro, where the old dam built in 1932 finally has a job to do – divert a little of that water to farmers and let the rest shoot on through all the way down to Elephant Butte. Longtime farmers like Corky Herkenhoff can tell where the runoff is coming from by the color of the silt in the water.

“Most of what’s coming today is from the Rio Puerco,” Herkenhoff said, viewing the river from the walkway on top of the dam. “These kinds of flows are what save the fish and the farmers.”

The farmers have to share the water with the endangered Rio Grande Silvery Minnow. When the river gets low, the fish get all the water – but today there’s plenty to go around. In fact the flow at San Acacia was 228 cubic feet per second Tuesday afternoon.

“Even last year it looked pretty bleak,” said Herkenhoff, whose family has farmed and ranched here for generations. “This year it began that way, but it’s hard to have enough patience to get to the 4th of July. That’s about when the relief comes for us.”

The river is flowing now all the way from Cochiti Dam down to the dam at Elephant Butte, after running dry for a stretch of about 20 miles in Socorro County earlier this summer. The main irrigation canal for the Socorro area is full of that yellowish muddy water from the Rio Puerco, on its way to fields full of alfalfa and other thirsty crops.