Commentary: Elephant Butte Irrigation District was formed in 1918, only two years after the completion of Elephant Butte Dam. Together they transformed a flood prone high desert watershed into an agricultural oasis and economic dynamo for the entire southwest region. This year, the District celebrates 100 years of dedicated service to the farmers of the Hatch/Rincon and Mesilla Valleys.
Our mission continues to be to serve the generations of farm families in these valleys and their farms, large and small, promoting local agricultural commodities grown with surface water from the Rio Grande, which is the life blood of the region.
EBID hosted an open house on November 15 to honor and celebrate the hard-working people who have contributed to the vitality and growth of the District over the decades. Guests enjoyed a variety of photographic displays and had the opportunity to examine the District’s educational water trailer, which models the water and irrigation cycle in the region. The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum donated their recent exhibition from the Elephant Butte Dam 100th Anniversary. These panels are on permanent display at the District office along with numerous photos showcasing District water management and regional agricultural production efforts new and old.
District members and representatives from water and land use organizations met to tour the District headquarters and network. Attendees included Jayne Harkins, P.E., the new commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission and Dona Ana County Commissioner Raymundo Gonzalez. Members of the South Central New Mexico Stormwater Management Coalition and the Dona Ana Soil and Water Conservation District also attended as well as many other interested individuals.
Created under New Mexico Statute 73-10-1 et.seq., the District took over all legal and financial responsibilities and obligations of the Elephant Butte Water Users Association that was formed in 1905. After repaying construction costs over 60 years, the District and its farming members paid off the repayment debt, to the United States government, becoming the first its kind to do so. It then became a completely farmer-owned and operated District in 1978 through a combination of paying off its debt and entering an Operation and Maintenance contract with the United States Bureau of Reclamation.
In 1987 the District also gained operation and maintenance control by contract over the three diversion dams in the District at Percha, Leasburg, and Mesilla. In 1996 EBID completed another major milestone when it received a quitclaim deed from the United States to the 600 miles of canals, laterals and waste-ways along with 400 miles of drainage infrastructure.
Drought has become one of the greatest water issues facing the West; the District and its members have countered with innovative, creative and conservative practices to deal with this crisis. Farmers have faced historic droughts in the past and will again. They will survive and even thrive; working alongside EBID to ensure every drop of water is used wisely.
Although farming methods have changed over the decades, farmers’ grit, determination and care of land and water resources has stayed the same. Our new logo reflects this history and a few of the major agricultural products produced with this surface water. The District is farmer owned and takes water stewardship seriously as it prepares to ensure agriculture continues to thrive in the next 100 years. Thanks to all who came and celebrated with us!