High River Flows along the Rio Grande


Hi flows in the Rio Grande May 19, 2017Hi water flows in the Rio Grande, May 19, 2017Hi flows in the Rio Grande, May 19, 2017



For Your Safety:

  • While the river channel and drainage ditches can handle higher flows, we urge the public to stay away from areas in the immediate vicinity of the river channel.
    • These areas may be unstable and dangerous.

    • Please use extra caution near the river channel and protect or remove any valuable property in these areas.

    • If boating, please use the proper life jacket.

      General Information:

  • The 2019 spring runoff is the highest volume of snowmelt runoff in the Rio Grande since 2005.

    • It is also the highest sustained releases from Cochiti Dam since 2005.


  • While the releases are higher than seen in recent years, we are NOT in flood-control operation stage.

    • There is plenty of capacity behind Cochiti Dam to handle flood-control storage if this should become necessary.


  • The Rio Grande flow is unpredictable due to weather and snowmelt. The Corps continues to monitor and make adjustments as needed.


  • As of May 2, 2019, the release rate from Cochiti Dam is 5,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and the main stem of the Rio Grande continues to increase in flow.

    • For reference, one cubic foot per second is roughly equivalent to the volume of a basketball, so we are releasing about 5,000 basketballs out of Cochiti Dam each second.

    • For the most current release rate at all Albuquerque District dams, visit http://w3.spa.usace.army.mil/wc/htmlrpts/CorpsResSum.htm

    • Water takes 3-4 days to travel down the Rio Grande from Cochiti Dam to Elephant Butte.


  • Downstream conditions are being closely monitored by USACE as well as our partners to ensure that the higher flows can safely pass downstream.

    • Our partners include:

      • MRGCD

      • Bureau of Reclamation

      • NM Interstate Stream Commission


  • Legal reasons for the higher releases:

    • We can’t store any water at Cochiti Lake

      • Except for flood control operations

    • By law (Rio Grande Compact and the federal authorizations Cochiti has), we have to pass what comes into the lake through the dam.

    • Cochiti is only authorized for flood-control and a recreation pool.


  • Higher flows are beneficial to the general health of the river and its ecosystem.

    • Higher flows help flush sediments out of the river channel, increasing its capacity so that it can pass higher flood flows.

    • Higher flows also help the diverse ecosystem, including endangered species (such as the silvery minnow).

    • It also helps the cottonwood trees reproduce.


  • The higher releases are part of our normal operational procedures.

    • We will adjust our actions as needed, depending on changes in conditions both up and downstream of Cochiti Dam.



      Rio Chama/Abiquiu Dam:


  • Releases from Abiquiu are currently at 1,600 cfs and expected to increase to 1,800 cfs by the end of the week (April 29).

  • Downstream conditions are being closely monitored by USACE.

  • The release rate may be changed or reduced if the precipitation forecast shows a risk of exceeding safe channel capacity in the Rio Chama, or if river conditions warrant.