By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Water is flowing in Arch Hurley Irrigation District canals.
The water began its journey on Thursday, Franklin McCasland said, and the flow should start reaching the eastern extremes of the district on Thursday or Friday. It reached the Tucumcari area on Sunday, McCasland said, and deliveries started for customers north and west of Tucumcari Monday.
The main spigot at Conchas Lake was opened at 9 a.m. Thursday, McCasland said, and water is entering the district’s waterways at 110 cubic feet per second, or about 220 acre-feet per day.
McCasland said he hopes the flow will continue through the summer.
Each of the 41,000 acres farmed by Arch Hurley members has been allocated a half an acre-foot of water for the season, McCasland said.
At the current rate of flow, the allocations should be fulfilled in about 120 days, through late August or early September, he said.
This year is the second consecutive year that water has been allocated to Arch Hurley members. Last year, aided by 80,000 acre-feet of water that flowed into Conchas Lake from preciptitation, and some unusually heavy storms, McCasland said, the district was able to allocate about 18 inches per acre to cusotmers.
On Monday, Conchas Reservoir’s elevation was 4177.03 feet above sea level, a foot below its level in March 2014, when the district allowed the first allocations in four years. In the previous three years, the lake’s level had been too low to allow Arch Hurley allocations.
McCasland said he is also optimistic that additional rain this season will increase the amount of water available to members.
The National Weather Service has tentatively forecast average rainfall for the area that includes Quay County, an improvement over the significantly less than normal rainfall in the three years before 2014, in which no water was allocated to Arch Hurley customers.
Leonard Lauriault, supervisor of the New Mexico State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Tucumcari, said in mid-March that with good moisture from winter snows, availability of irrigation water from the Arch Hurley Conservancy District and the outlook for average precipitation, the 2015 growing season should be good for grain and forage sorghums, hay but not alfalfa, and haygrazer feed crops.
Summer and fall wheat crops are likely to be planted, as well, Lauriault said, but he said he is not expecting this season to be good for cotton.