U.S. Department of the Interior


Date of this Version



Published in Hydraulic Engineering: Saving a Threatened Resource—In Search of Solutions: Proceedings of the Hydraulic Engineering sessions at Water Forum ’92. Baltimore, Maryland, August 2–6, 1992. Published by American Society of Civil Engineers.


The Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for maintenance of channel facilities above Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico. These facilities are designed to maximize the efficiency of water delivery into the reservoir pool. The major facilities operated and maintained by Reclamation include a rectified floodway channel and the Low Flow Conveyance Channel. When constructed in the 1950's, a period of prolonged drought and low reservoir levels, these channels extended some 20 (32 Ion) miles through then dry areas of the reservoir.

Between 1979 and 1987 flows in the Rio Grande were significantly above normal. Elephant Butte Reservoir filled for the ftrst time since 1942 and the lower reaches of the Low Flow Conveyance Channel and rectified floodway were inundated. Great quantities of sediment deposited in the upper reservoir and in the river reach affected by its backwater. Channels were filled by depositing sediment impairing delivery of water into the reservoir.

When the reservoir level began to drop, restoration of efficient channels into the reservoir became a high priority. This paper describes and documents the strategies and methods employed to restore efficient transport of water and sediment into Elephant Butte Reservoir.