Rio Grande by A. Molles

Click on the name of a dam or diversion in the map or the table to learn more about each. Information sources used in this compilation are listed at the bottom of the page.

Background
The hydrology of the Rio Grande is greatly influenced by water management facilities and their operations. Water management along the Rio Grande began as early as 1400 A.D. for the purpose of agricultural irrigation. Contemporary water management in the basin evolved over decades, as a result of separate compacts, treaties, and authorizing legislation, plus the combined policies and distinct missions of multiple agencies. The following is a description of facilities illustrated on the map above and includes information regarding facility ownership, date of completion, general location, authorizing legistlation, purpose, water storage capacity, and dam structure.


Clockwise from upper left: Caballo spillway, Leasburg dam,
Elephant Butte Dam, Elephant Butte Reservoir

Closed Basin Project

Ownership U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Date of Completion Early 1990s
General Location San Luis Valley, Colorado
Authorizing Legislation Public Law 92-514 (1972)
Purpose To help Colorado meet its required deliveries to New Mexico and to help Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas meet their Rio Grande Compact delivery requirements to Mexico; to maintain the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and Blanca Wildlife Habitat Area; for irrigation and other beneficial uses in Colorado. The project consists of 170 salvage wells that remove groundwater from the aquifer in the Closed Basin and discharge the water (60,000 - 140,000 cfs) into the Rio Grande.
Capacity Average annual production (1986-1999) of 25,000 acre-feet with a low of 3,795 acre-feet in 1986 and a high of 43,772 acre-feet in 1997.

Platoro Dam and Reservoir

Ownership U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (but operated by the Conejos Water Conservancy District)
Date of Completion 1951
General Location Conejos River, Colorado
Authorizing Legislation Section 7 of the Flood Control Act of 1944
Purpose Flood control, irrigation water supply, recreation, and fish and wildlife enhancement. The conservation pool is drained in spring to provide space for snowmelt runoff as needed. Releases are managed to maintain flows of 2,500 cfs at the Mogote gage and 1,600 cfs at the Los Sauces gage.
Capacity 59,570 acre-feet at a spillway crest elevation of 10,034 feet.
Dam Description Zoned earthfill, 131 feet in elevation and 1,526 feet long.

Heron Dam and Reservoir

Ownership U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Date of Completion 1971
General Location Willow Creek on the confluence of with the Rio Chama, New Mexico
Authorizing Legislation Public Law 87-483 (1962) (San Juan-Chama Transmountain Diversion Project)
Purpose Storage and delivery of San Juan-Chama (SJC) Project water (96,200 acre-feet); provides up to 5,000 acre-feet of SJC water annually to maintain recreation pool at Cochiti Lake.
Capacity

399,980 acre-feet at a crest elevation of 7,192 feet.

Dam Description Earthfill, 276 feet tall and 1221 feet long.

El Vado Dam and Reservoir

Ownership Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as of 1956)
Date of Completion 1935, with rehabilitation in 1954-1955
General Location Rio Chama, New Mexico
Purpose Storing water for irrigation, recreation, incidental flood control, and sedimentation control including prior and paramount Native American water rights.
Capacity 195,440 acre-feet at a crest elevation of 6,902 feet.
Dam Description Random earthfill, 154 feet tall and 1,362 feet long.

Abiquiu Dam and Reservoir

Ownership U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Date of Completion 1963
General Location Rio Chama, New Mexico
Authorizing Legislation Flood Control Acts of 1948 and 1950
Purpose Flood and sediment control, and water storage of SJC contractor water (all native water inflow is bypassed up to the channel capacity of 1,800 cfs). If storage space is needed for large snowmelt runoff or flood event, the Corps can release SJC water in storage.
Capacity 1,192,800 acre-feet at a crest elevation of 6,350 feet; SJC water can be stored up to an elevation of 6,220 feet.

Cochiti Dam and Cochiti Lake

Ownership U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Date of Completion 1973 (and closed in 1975)
General Location Middle Rio Grande, Sandoval County, New Mexico; near the confluence of the Canada de Cochiti, the Santa Fe River, and the Rio Grande and just downstream of White Rock Canyon.
Authorizing Legislation Flood Control Act of 1960
Purpose Flood and sediment control, fish and wildlife enhancement, recreation, and irrigation; storage of SJC water (~5,000 acre-feet) to maintain a reservoir surface of 1,200 acres. All native water inflow is released up to a channel capacity of 7,000 cfs at the Albuquerque gage.
Capacity 582,019 acre-feet at a spillway crest elevation of 5,461 feet.
Dam Description Rolled earthfill embankment with a crest length of more than 5 miles and a crest height of 250 feet above the river bed.
Lake Description Extends 20 miles upstream.

Galisteo Dam and Reservoir

Ownership U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Date of Completion 1970
General Location Galisteo Creek, New Mexico; near the confluence of Galisteo Creek and the Middle Rio Grande
Authorizing Legislation Flood Control Act of 1960
Purpose Flood and sediment control
Capacity 88,900 acre-feet (but is empty most of the time)
Dam Description Earthfill

Jemez Canyon Dam and Reservoir

Ownership U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Date of Completion 1953
General Location Confluence of the Jemez River and the Middle Rio Grande, New Mexico
Authorizing Legislation Flood Control Act of 1948
Purpose Flood and sediment control. Native water inflow is bypassed up to a channel capacity of 7,000 cfs at the Albuquerque gage.
Capacity 102,700 acre-feet at a crest elevation of 5,233 feet.

Angostura Diversion Dam

Ownership Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District
Date of Completion 1934 and rehabilitated in 1958.
General Location Middle Rio Grande, New Mexico; 5 miles upstream of Bernalillo
Purpose Diversion and delivery of irrigation waters.
Capacity Diversion capacity of 650 cfs.
Dam Description Concrete wall weir structure, 800 feet long and 17 feet tall.

Isleta Diversion Dam

Ownership Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District
Date of Completion 1934
General Location Middle Rio Grande, New Mexico; 13 miles south of Albuquerque
Purpose Diversion and delivery of irrigation waters.
Capacity Combined diversion capacity of 1,070 cfs to the Peralta Main and Belen Highline Canals.
Dam Description Concrete gate structure, 673 feet long and 21 feet tall.

San Acacia Diversion Dam

Ownership Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District
Date of Completion 1934 and rehabilitated in 1957
General Location Middle Rio Grande at San Acacia, New Mexico
Purpose Diversion and delivery of irrigation waters.
Capacity Diversion capacity of 283 cfs to the Socorro Main Canal.
Dam Description Concrete gate structure, 699 feet long and 17 feet tall.

Elephant Butte Dam and Reservoir

Ownership U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Date of Completion 1916
General Location Middle Rio Grande, New Mexico; 3.75 miles east of Truth or Consequences
Authorizing Legislation Authorized in 1905 under the provisions of the Reclamation Act of 1902 (authorizing the Rio Grande Project)
Purpose Irrigation, flood control, power generation, and recreation; SJC water storage for City of Albuquerque in 50,000 acre-foot pool.
Capacity 2,065,010 acre feet (78% of original capacity) at the top of the prudent flood pool elevation of 4,407 feet.
Dam Description Concrete gravity dam, 1,644 feet long and 302 feet tall.

Caballo Dam and Reservoir

Ownership U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (and operated in coordination with the International Water Boundary Commission)
Date of Completion 1938
General Location Rio Grande, New Mexico; 17 miles downstream from Elephant Butte Dam
Authorizing Legislation International Treaty with Mexico of 1933 (Rio Grande Rectification Project)
Purpose Irrigation, flood control, power generation at Elephant Butte, and replacement storage lost at Elephant Butte due to siltation; to meet treaty deliveries of 60,000 acre-feet annually to Mexico's Acequia Madre headworks; a minimum fisheries pool of 25,000 acre-feet is maintained per a 1991 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biological opinion.
Capacity 331,510 acre-feet at the top of exclusive pool elevation of 4,182 feet.
Dam Description Zoned earthfill, 4,560 feet long and 79 feet tall.

Leasburg Diversion Dam

Date of Completion 1919
General Location Rio Grande, 5 miles northwest of Las Cruces, New Mexico
Purpose To raise the level of the Rio Grande River, and thus raise the level of the main canal, which farmers in the Mesilla Valley use for irrigation.

American Diversion Dam and American Canal

Ownership U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (and operated in coordination with the International Water and Boundary Commission)
Date of Completion 1938
General Location Rio Grande, 3.5 miles upstream from El Paso, TX
Purpose Irrigation
Dam Description 284 feet long
Canal Description Located on the east bank of the river; was originally 2 miles long and was extended by an additional 12 miles by the Rio Grande American Canal Extension.

Amistad Diversion Dam

Date of Completion 1968
General Location Confluence of the Rio Grande and the Pecos River, Texas
Capacity 5,100,000 acre-feet

Falcon Diversion Dam

Date of Completion 1954
Capacity 3,200,000 acre-feet

Sources

Bullard, T. F. and S. G. Wells. 1992. Hydrology of the Middle Rio Grande From Velarde to Elephant Butte Reservoir, New Mexico. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Resource Publication 179, Washington, D.C.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Operations Fact Sheets:

  • Abiquiu Dam and Reservoir
  • Caballo Dam and Reservoir
  • Closed Basin Division, San Luis Valley Project
  • Cochiti Lake
  • El Vado Dam and Reservoir
  • Elephant Butte Dam and Reservoir
  • Heron Dam and Reservoir
  • Jemez Canyon Dam and Reservoir
  • Platoro Dam and Reservoir

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