Tumbleweeds drift along the Rio Grande as sand bars within its banks grow wider. Smoke from distant wildfires and dust kicked up by intense spring winds fill the valley, exacerbating the feeling of distress that is beginning to weigh on residents. One of North America's longest rivers, the Rio Grande is another example of a waterway in the western U.S. that's tapped out. From the Pacific Northwest to the Colorado River Basin, irrigation districts already are warning farmers to expect less this year despite growing demands fueled by ever-drying conditions. Climate experts say March marked the third straight month of below-average precipitation across the U.S. and areas of record dryness are expanding in the West. On Thursday, federal water managers are scheduled to share their annual operating plan for the Rio Grande, a major water source for millions people and thousands of square miles of farmland in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. Its outlook is expected to be similarly bleak. Mark Garcia, who farms about 400 acres (160 hectares) with his family in Valencia County, just south of Albuquerque , ran the numbers. He has a degree in mathematics and taught calculus for years before retiring and turning to… Read full this story
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