New Mexico

Release of Caballo Lake water marks beginning of irrigation season

Release of Caballo Lake water marks...

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Borderland farmers are preparing for the start of irrigation season.

Friday, the spillway at Caballo Lake will open, releasing water into the Rio Grande that will flow all the way south to El Paso.

This year, farmers in the Mesilla Valley will be allotted eight inches of water per acre. Although the water is coming from Caballo Lake, farmers in Southern New Mexico will be getting it last.

Farmers in El Paso's Lower Valley will be able to access the water April 3rd and those in the Upper Valley will be able to access it April 4th.

Farmers in Hatch, New Mexico will have access to the river water April 17th while farmers in Mexico will have access to the water April 18th. Mesilla Valley farmers will have to wait until mid-May to access the water.

Gary Esslinger, with the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, told ABC-7 the eight inch allotment per acre is average. Esslinger said a full allotment, which hasn't happened in 15 years, is 36 inches of water per acre.

Esslinger said it's possible farmers could receive 18 inches of water per acre this year. "What we're anticipating and hoping for is the snow pack in Colorado will receive its run off and in June, July and August and we'll receive that run off and that will allow our farmers in this district another 12 inches on top of what we release," he said.

Jimmy Lytle, owner of Hatch Chile Express, said selling chili and farming is his livelihood. Lytle said his business depends on the water allotted from the Rio Grande every year.

"The surface water is so much better than our supplemental water because it's better quality water," said Lyttle, who added small and shriveled chili is the result of salty water, drought and hot weather.

Jerry Franzoy, the owner of an onion farm, also said every inch of water counts. "A foot-and-a-half of water can bring our production up as high as 20 percent," Franzoy said, "We pray a lot to our heavenly father for snow up in Northern New Mexico and Colorado."


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