Laura Paskus,
Our Land Executive Producer
Hi everyone,

Within the past few days, the Rio Grande through Albuquerque started to dry. As of Monday morning, there were five miles dry in the Albuquerque stretch, 12 near Los Lunas, and 32 in the Socorro area. By the time you’re reading this, those dry stretches have lengthened.  
We’ll have more on Friday’s show, and in the coming weeks and months. You can see photos, including drone footage, on our Instagram page. And on Twitter, I’ve asked people to add their observations to a thread about the drying.  
You’ve likely read in various places that the Rio Grande hasn’t dried within the city since the 1980s. And many people who grew up in the city recall that it dried in the decades prior.  
That's true. But that drying requires some context.  
The Rio Grande through Albuquerque was frequently dried in the 1980s and earlier—but it was due to management choices. All the water would be diverted, for example, by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. This was a time before the silvery minnow was listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act; a time before leadership at the district cared at all, or were mandated to address, ecological concerns.  
And while there might have been dry times and bad years, even in the 1980s when that drying occurred, there was ample water stored in upstream reservoirs.  
For example, in late September 1983, when the Rio Grande was drying in the Albuquerque stretch, Heron Reservoir still held 398,300 acre-feet of water. Now? It has 70,099 acre-feet of water.  
El Vado held 128,191 acre-feet of water, compared with 2,023 today. And in late September 1983, Abiquiu Lake held 105,200 acre-feet of water, compared with 95,514 acre-feet right now.  
Put another way, as of Sunday, Heron Reservoir was 17% full; El Vado, 2%; Abiquiu, 51%. And if we look downstream, Elephant Butte is at 5%, Caballo, 9%.  
The drying is happening today because demand has dramatically outpaced supply, particularly in our warming world. 
For right now, farmers in the middle valley are still receiving some irrigation water, but that’s not going to last much longer. And as MRGCD’s Jason Casuga explained on our show earlier this year, New Mexico is currently in debt to Texas under the Rio Grande Compact. In past years, we haven’t delivered to Texas the water we legally owe them, based on the flows that come into the state from Colorado.  
If you want to understand more about reservoir storage and water supplies, you can also watch a conversation with Carolyn Donnelly, water operations supervisor for the Albuquerque Area Office, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. You can also watch the second part of Casuga’s interview, which focuses on resources for farmers and some specific infrastructure issues. 
Meanwhile, on New Mexico’s second largest river, the Pecos River, things aren't looking great, either: Sumner Reservoir is 13% full; Brantley, 29%; and Avalon, 23%. 
Clearly, climate change is eviscerating New Mexico’s rivers and reservoirs. And the seasonal temperature outlook just released by NOAA shows conditions will only make things tougher.
It’s been a devastating fire season in New Mexico, with hot, dry, and windy conditions throughout the spring and summer – plus two U.S. Forest Service prescribed fire treatments that burned out of control, merging into New Mexico’s largest fire in recorded history, the Hermits Peak – Calf Canyon Fire.  
On New Mexico in Focus last week, New Mexico State Forester Laura McCarthy spoke about the conditions that led to this year’s historic fire season in New Mexico and shares her thoughts on how to plan safer prescribed fires in the future, as climate change has “outpaced” current fire protocols. 
We'll talk more about Holtec in the coming weeks and months, but I wanted to point people toward this May 2022 story from The Washington Post, The Dangerous business of dismantling America’s aging nuclear plants.” Reporter Douglas MacMillan focuses on New Jersey’s Oyster Creek power plant, and also explains how it is that a private company – Holtec – earns money off nuclear waste. He also writes:  

In the nearly three years Holtec has owned Oyster Creek, regulators have documented at least nine violations of federal rules, including the contaminated water mishap, falsified weapons inspection reports and other unspecified security lapses. That’s at least as many as were found over the preceding 10 years at the plant, when it was owned by Exelon, one of the nation’s largest utility companies, according to The Post’s review of regulatory records. 

A look around at some other environment coverage: 

“Middle Rio Grande pueblos want to quantify water rights” (Theresa Davis, Albuquerque Journal

• This story came out before the Albuquerque stretch of the Rio Grande started drying, but as usual, Susan Montoya Bryan has important context and key information: “Reduced to a trickle, river managers brace for more drying” (Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press) 

In some congressional news, last week, the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act passed out of committee and will now head to the U.S. Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, would designate a stretch of the river in New Mexico as Wild and Scenic, lending it additional protections from pollution and development. And Rep. James Comer, R-KY, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform has named Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-NM, as the new ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Environment. 

And a huge thank you to my friend Rhea who made sure I didn’t miss this Yo-Yo Ma performance in the forest, accompanied by birds. 
Best wishes, 
Laura Paskus

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