Ute Lake releases water to Texas; First time in six years

by Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

For the first time in more than six years, water was released at 7 p.m. on
Sunday from Ute Lake into the Canadian River, said Kent Terry, Ute Lake
Dam manager and tender for the state’s Interstate Stream Commission.
Due to recent rains, Ute Lake reached an elevation of 3,785.52 feet.
“Above that number it’s Texas’ water, below that number it’s New Mexico’s
water,” he said.

That number, Terry said, “is part of the operating schedule that was
determined in a judgment by the U.S. Supreme Court. Any water above that
mark is automatically sent to Texas.”

The 1992 judgment was made when Texas and Oklahoma challenged the amount
of water New Mexico was storing in the lake based on a decades-old compact
between the three states.

Texas has a particular interest in the water because the Canadian River
flows into its Lake Meredith reservoir. Lake Meredith is a source for
drinking water for more than 500,000 people in Amarillo and surrounding

At the Ute Lake dam, the lake level is monitored daily and transmitted via
satellite to a website, Terry said. And both the Interstate Stream
Commission and the Canadian Municipal Water Authority in Texas watch it

As a matter of protocol, when the lake reaches the 3,785.52-foot mark,
“Santa Fe calls and asks them if they are ready,” Terry said.

The last time Ute Lake Dam’s 42-inch diameter valves were opened was in
the early spring of 2000 to release water to head toward Texas, Terry said.
It is estimated that 75 percent of the water that is released will reach
Lake Meredith. The remainder is lost to evaporation and seepage into the
ground. However, with the earth saturated from recent rains, “it probably
won’t lose as much,” Terry said.

“At the present rate, with no more rains, it will be open for about two to
three weeks,” Terry said. “With more rains, it will just prolong it.”
It takes the water released from Ute Lake about 72 hours to show up in
Lake Meredith, Terry said.