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El Vado Dam to undergo extensive repairs to prevent leaks

November 23, 2021 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Major repairs to a northern New Mexico dam will mean irrigation water will have to be stored elsewhere.

Repairs on El Vado Dam are slated to start next spring, leaving it unusable for at least a year to deliver water to the Middle Rio Grande Valley, said Page Pegram of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission.

Abiquiu Lake most likely will be the backup, Pegram told the Albuquerque Journal.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans to address cracks in El Vado’s steel faceplate and the foundation, and the deteriorating spillway. The dam was built in the 1930s and its current condition isn’t safe for the public, the agency said.

El Vado Dam can hold back about 60 billion gallons (273 billion liters) of water, but the capacity will be reduced significantly while the repairs are being done.

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Persistent drought also has meant less water in New Mexico reservoirs, and the region could be in store for a dry winter with a La Niña weather pattern.

“Water supply conditions for the Middle Rio Grande in 2022, are expected to be significantly diminished,” Pegram said. “We expect stream flows in the basin to remain below average.”