In El Paso’s Lower Valley along the Rio Grande just north of the Mexico border, water is in short supply. Jesus Reyes, director of the El Paso County Water Improvement District: “We’ve been in and out of drought for the last 23 years in our valley.” The Water Improvement District is funded partially by the US government, but is operated locally.
The Lower Valley once thrived as a farming community with crops such as pecans, onions and other local produce. There are still farms in the area, but a good deal of land has been sold off for residential and commercial development over the years.
Reyes noted that the area’s historic water supply challenges stem from the 1916 construction of the Elephant Butte Dam in New Mexico. It controlled water flowing through the river in New Mexico and Texas, and stored water as a way of limiting the effects of drought. Each year, the valley must await the arrival of water from winter snow pack from mountain regions in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.