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Elephant Butte Reservoir is at 13.3% capacity- what that means for the future

ELEPHANT BUTTE, New Mexico - Lakes and rivers across the desert are experiencing lower water levels as the 'mega-drought' continues. At this point in time, the Elephant Butte Reservoir is sitting at 13.3% of its total capacity, according to Connor Dennhardt, a National Weather Service Meteorologist at the El Paso Office.

Compared to this time last year, the lake is actually 1.7% fuller than it was last year, but the difference is minimal compared to what it should actually be. If the drought continues through the next several years, the question remains- will the reservoir dry out, and if it does, will farmers and agriculturists in the area survive without their water allocations each year?

First, we must look at winter snowfall amounts across New Mexico. Dennhardt had this to say about how much snowfall fell in the mountains that feed water to the Rio Grande.

"What we haven't seen this year is a really healthy winter snowfall. Precipitation amounts we're only getting about 70-80% of normal in terms of snowfall this winter so that's just less water to work with both in the upper Rio Grande and in the Elephant Butte. We've been seeing this for several years. We saw it, especially, last year when water levels were even lower but thankfully we were saved by a really good monsoon here that was able to help irrigation down in the lower valley," he said.

He added it will be "pretty tough" for farmers and irrigators this year due to the amount of water in the reservoir, but that it has been a similar situation for local agriculturists for the past two decades!

ABC-7 will continue to update this story as it updates.

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Katie Frazier

Katie Frazier is an ABC-7 meteorologist.


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