New Mexico Floods Damaging But Also Brought Drought Relief

September 24, 2013

Recent flooding brought widespread damage to New Mexico, but the rain also provided significant relief for the state’s drought.

Some places, like Albuquerque, are still well short of their 36-month rainfall average, but the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico came out ahead, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Pecos reservoir storage for area farmers went from 11 percent full to 92 percent in less than two weeks.

While the flooding created problems in Pecos Valley towns, the boost to the water supply was a blessing in the drought-plagued communities, according to Aron Balok, head of the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District, the valley’s largest farm water management agency.

“It got pretty close to my house,” Balok said of the arroyo flood flows, “and I still didn’t say I wished it would stop.”

Elephant Butte, the Rio Grande’s largest water storage reservoir, gained more than 50,000 acre feet of water in the storm. The reservoir holds 2 million acre feet of water and rose from 4.4 percent to 5.9 percent full.

The problem on the Rio Grande, according to New Mexico State University hydrologist Phil King, is that a summer rainstorm, even one as large as this one, cannot begin to make up for the shortfall caused by years of low winter snowpack.

“Monsoons don’t get us out of drought,” King said. “We get a few tens of thousands of acre-feet from a good monsoon, but over a million from a good spring runoff season.”

No statewide figures were available at the end of last week, but some counties had preliminary tallies linked to flood damage and severe weather.

In San Miguel County, for example, the figure was between $6 million and $7 million. That doesn’t include the city of Las Vegas, which had infrastructure and water treatment facilities damaged.

In Eddy County, Emergency Manager Joel Arnwine said damage to road and other public facilities there were estimated at up to $1.8 million.

For Cibola County, the figure was about $1 million, and in Los Alamos, officials estimated $5 million in damage with millions more at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated $9 million to the state’s roads and bridges.

Topics Flood Mexico

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