Watch The Rio Grande River Fill Up & See Why It Keeps Drying Up
Every Spring the, (usually dry), Rio Grande gets a refill. Watch as that happens in this video.
On top of our drink and irrigation needs, drought and rising temperatures have really put a dent in the amount of water the Rio Grande brings us. The Rio Grande's flow is severely restricted by the dam, north of El Paso, at Elephant Butte.
Obviously, water needs to be stored in this dry region but the river also had to be controlled to stop its, sometimes heavy, flooding. El Paso was once considered as a site for the dam but putting it here would have flooded the Mesilla Valley and screwed up rail lines among other things.
So, Elephant Butte became the chosen site as it wasn't too close to anything that anyone would really miss.
The dam holds back the river as well as snowmelt and runoff from the mountains in Colorado and northern New Mexico.
Every Spring, water is released from the dam to provide irrigation for the Mesilla Valley and El Paso areas.
As the year progresses, it dries up until the next Spring release occurs. Here's a video of the river making its annual return to our area.
In May, 2022, Elephant Butte water levels had fallen to only 13.3% of its capacity. This, again, due in large part to climate change and less snowfall up north.
Elephant Butte State Park remains open and there is still ... for now ... enough water for boating, swimming, skiing, etc.
As for why our water flow gets turned on and off, here's another video.