Submitted to: Lake and Reservoir Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/28/2014
Publication Date: 3/10/2015
Citation: Brauer, D.K., Baumhardt, R.L., Gitz, D.C., Gowda, P., Mahan, J.R. 2015. Characterization of trends in reservoir storage, streamflow and precipitation in the Canadian River Watershed in New Mexico and Texas. Lake and Reservoir Management. 31:64-79.
Interpretive Summary: Dams were created along the Canadian River in New Mexico and Texas during the 20th century to supply water for irrigation, and municipal and industrial uses. In recent years, demand has exceeded supplies. This study examined trends in stream flow and reservoir levels in the Canadian River throughout the New Mexico-Texas region from 1940 to 2009. Water stored in Eagle Nest Lake, Conchas Lake, Ute Lake, and Lake Meredith was less than the long-term averages between 2000 and 2009, and was associated with less than average stream flow rates. The results question the ability of these lakes as a municipal water source and uncertainty regarding these reservoirs to supply municipal water may increase the reliance of towns on the Ogallala Aquifer as a water source.
Technical Abstract: Extensive development of the Canadian River in New Mexico and Texas occurred in the 20th century to supply water for irrigation, industrial, municipal, and recreational uses. In the past ten years, there have been several reports focusing on specific reservoirs in the region to examine better means to meet water use objectives; however, none of these studies has examined water trends in the entire region. Data on reservoir storage in the four major impoundments on the Canadian River in New Mexico and Texas (Eagle Nest Lake, Conchas Lake, Ute Lake and Lake Meredith) and the four major U.S. Geological Survey flow gages (07211500, 07221500, 07227000 and 07227500) were extracted from various sources and analyzed. These analyses indicated that the reservoir storage values for all four impoundments during the last decade (2000 to 2009) were less than the historical means. Low storage values were associated with stream flows that are less than the long-term means at all four gages. Low flows at the gage above Lake Meredith were not associated with a decline of the total amount of annual or summer precipitation for the 11 weather stations in the watershed between Ute Lake and Lake Meredith. Data regarding gains and losses to Lake Meredith were analyzed and discussed. These results indicated that flow at gage 07227500 needs to be approximately 150,000 acre-feet annually to maintain conservation reservoir storage level in Lake Meredith while supplying 80,000 acre-feet of water for municipal use.