The Water Authority has agreed to swap water it owns in Abiquiu Reservoir with water owned by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation—water that’s temporarily trapped in Heron Reservoir due to construction activity downstream.

“The utility supports arrangements like this that are beneficial to everyone who relies on San Juan-Chama water in the Middle Rio Grande,” said Eric C. Olivas, chairman of the Water Authority board.  “We’re glad we could be part of a solution that helps farmers and the river.”

Under the agreement, signed this week by the Water Authority, MRGCD and Reclamation, the Water Authority will transfer up to 20,900 acre-feet of its Abiquiu water to MRGCD and up to 10,000 acre-feet of water to the Bureau of Reclamation, making it available for immediate use. This will be exchanged with a corresponding amount of MRGCD and Reclamation-leased water now held in Heron Reservoir further north.

“This agreement means that MRGCD can keep sending water down the Rio Grande in August for the use of irrigators, and that the Reclamation can continue to release flows for the benefit of the riparian ecosystem and the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow,” said Eric Zamora, MRGCD’s Chief Operating Officer.

Reclamation cannot currently convey water from Heron Reservoir because of ongoing construction at El Vado Reservoir, through which water from Heron must move on its way south. The bureau manages the reservoirs and other infrastructure associated with the San Juan-Chama Project, which provides surface water for use by New Mexico communities and water agencies

“Reclamation appreciates our continued partnership with the Water Authority and their willingness to problem-solve and partner on water management for the Middle Rio Grande,” said Jennifer Faler, Area Manager for Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Office.

The Water Authority, which has plenty of additional water in Abiquiu for Albuquerque’s use this year, will be able to access the exchanged water in Heron at a later date.