As US farmers along the Rio Grande set in for winter, they are holding out hope that El Niño will develop and save them from what could otherwise be another dry start to the next growing season. Many of the irrigation canals are all but dry.
The irrigation district that serves farmers in southern New Mexico already has issued a warning that next year's allotment could be as little as a few inches (10 cm) of water. Elephant Butte, the largest reservoir in the state, bottomed out at just 3 percent of capacity at the end of September. While there has been a slight uptick since then, that marked the lowest since the early 1970s.
It will likely be late spring before the Elephant Butte Irrigation District begins to release water to farmers in the Hatch and Mesilla valleys.
National climate experts have been watching and waiting but El Niño continues to tease, leaving New Mexico and the rest of the American Southwest to hang on longer until the weather pattern develops and brings more moisture to the drought-stricken region.
"It's bleak," said Phil King, water resources specialist for the district. He is not optimistic about the development of a wetter-than-average pattern for southern New Mexico. He said the region has endured 16 years of drought and it looks as if 2019 will continue to bring further challenges with low water supplies.
According to islandpacket.com¸ the federal drought map released Thursday shows the situation has improved in a small portion of northern New Mexico and along the Rio Grande corridor, but the Four Corners region and the southern Colorado mountains that feed the river are still dealing with extreme to exceptional drought.