Michelle Lujan Grisham was sworn in as the 32nd Governor of the state of New Mexico on Jan. 1, 2019. With the goal of continued preservation of New Mexico’s water, Governor Lujan Grisham appointed John D’Antonio as the New Mexico State Engineer, and Rolf Schmidt-Petersen as the new director of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC).
Lujan Grisham appointed John D’Antonio as the New Mexico State Engineer, and Rolf Schmidt-Petersen as the new director of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC). D’Antonio served eight years as New Mexico state engineer, from 2003-2011, and built on decades of intensive experience in water resources engineering and management in New Mexico. D’Antonio has served as Cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department; spent four additional years in the Office of the State Engineer, as both director of the Water Resource Allocation Program and District 1 supervisor of water resources. Schmidt- Petersen was ISC ‘s Colorado River Basin manager, interim Colorado River Basin bureau chief and Rio Grande Basin bureau chief. Before serving in those positions, he was an engineer adviser for the Rio Grande Compact Commission and worked as a hydrologist in the private sector.
New Mexico House Bill 651 was signed into law on April 2, 2019. HB 651 creates a Water Data Council, which will identify key water data sets, develop standards for water data, make water data available and useful, develop a platform for that data and identify information gaps and future needs. The council will, among other duties, develop an assessment of water data and information needs to support water management and planning in the state. Involved New Mexico agencies are the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, the Interstate Stream Commission, the Office of the State Engineer, the Department of the Environment and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced an $83.7 million construction contract for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project to bring clean and reliable water to tribal and rural communities in northwestern New Mexico. As part of the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Reclamation’s water supply project is the cornerstone of the Navajo Nation San Juan River in New Mexico Water Rights Settlement Agreement. Work under this contract will include construction of nearly 30 miles of 48-inch and 42-inch diameter pipeline spanning from the Navajo communities of Little Water to Naschitti, N.M. When completed, the San Juan Lateral of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project will provide water for municipal, industrial and domestic use to Navajo communities in New Mexico, as well as the City of Gallup
Work is also proceeding along the Cutter Lateral, the other main pipeline for this project. Reclamation anticipates that the first project water will be delivered through that system next summer. Work under this contract will begin in January 2020 and is expected to last for approximately 2 years. Construction on this stretch of the pipeline will be visible from U.S. Highway 491. Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project will provide a long-term, reliable water supply for 43 chapters on the Navajo Reservation, the southwest area of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation and the City of Gallup. When completed, it will include approximately 300 miles of pipeline, two water treatment plants, 19 pumping plants and multiple water storage tanks.
In WY2019 the San Juan Basin experienced a slow start before a much-needed turnaround. February- March precipitation ranked the highest on record and persistent cool/wet weather delayed snowmelt. The snowpack above Navajo Dam peaked at 144% of average. Final April-July inflow volume was 1,162,400 af (158% of average). A maintenance release was conducted from Navajo Dam from June 3-15. The release peaked at 5,000 cfs on June 12, 2019. Preliminary modified-unregulated inflow into Navajo Dam (inflow adjusted for upstream change in storage, reservoir evaporation and exportation from the basin) in July was 171,000 af (259% of average for the month). On Aug. 22, 2019, the daily average release rate from Navajo Dam was approximately 1,480 cfs while reservoir inflow (modified unregulated) was averaging approximately 306 cfs. The water surface elevation was 6070.84 feet above sea level, and 81% of active storage capacity. NIIP was diverting 700 cfs from the reservoir. The river flow measured at the Animas River at Farmington USGS gage was at 225 cfs. River flow at the San Juan River at Four Corners USGS gage was 1,460 cfs. Forecast modified-unregulated inflow to Navajo over the next three months (August, September and October) are projected to be: 48,000 af (106% of average), 42,000 af (97% of average) and 45,000 af (96% of average).
In 2019 the Animas La Plata Project’s Lake Nighthorse was at 6,881.03 feet of pool elevation and 113,634 acre- feet of live storage on Sept. 2, 2019. Pumping began at the Durango Pumping Plant on June 10, 2019, and was completed on June 27, 2019. Total volume pumped was 1,734 acre-feet. The Animas Basin snowpack for winter 2018/2019 was 158% of median peak. The April-July 2019 Runoff observed Totals at the Animas River in Durango, Colo., was 654,000 acre-feet (170% of median).
The San Juan River Recovery Implementation Program (SJRIP) is a nationally recognized program designed to recover the endangered species and continue water development and use. In WY 2019, the SJRIP has requested Available Water over the End of Water Year Storage Target of 6063 ft. be used to augment baseflows in the critical habitat reach (Farmington to Lake Powell), as recommended in the Flow Recommendations decision tree (1999, updated 2016). Available water over this target will be used to increase the downstream target baseflow to 1500 cfs through September, as long as excess water is available. Starting in early November, the release will drop as low as needed to make the lowest baseflow (as low as 250 cfs). By mid-November, operations will resume as normal and releases will range between 350 and 650 cfs on average.