4 Investigates: The future of water in New Mexico

Aug 9, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — El agua es vida.

Water is life.

It's a saying older than New Mexico itself, but its meaning is more important now than ever before. Just because New Mexico saw a monstrous winter and a typical monsoon this year, water shortages are still expected in the future.

Admittedly, this has been a good year in New Mexico. Snowpack that melted into our Rio Grande was the largest amount since 1997.

Elephant Butte Lake, the largest reservoir in New Mexico and a place that many look to when it comes to gauging where we are in a drought, is the highest it's been in almost a decade. However, even with all the runoff, Elephant Butte Lake is not even 1/3 full.

New Mexico State Climatologist Dr. David Dubois says a warming trend in the Southwest is strongly affecting snowpack, snowmelt timing, and more rain instead of snow during the winter months. That means less water in the long run.

"If we see a decrease in that for farmers that grow chiles or cotton, and pecans down here in Las Cruces, then we have to come up with alternative sources of water," Dr. Dubois stated.

That's where New Mexico faces a daunting problem. Major cities like Albuquerque get drinking water largely from the Rio Grande and the Colorado River Basin.

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