The annual first release of water down the Rio Grande from Elephant Butte and Leasburg Dam happened Wednesday, June 1.
And as usual, large blocks of white foam accompanied the welcome rush of water down the watercourse that had been dry since early last fall. At first, it looks like the entire river has been taken over by some kind of toxic disaster. You might think that an entire load of Styrofoam has accidentally been dumped in the water when a truck smashed through a guardrail over Interstate 10.
But nope, it’s not toxic and it’s just something that happens every year for the first couple of days after the initial water release in the river. The amount of foam decreases rapidly until it’s all gone in just a few days.
Longtime Elephant Butte Irrigation District Manager Gary Esslinger took time on Friday last week to explain what’s going on.
“It’s just a chemical reaction between the water that has been stored upstream and the dry riverbed,” Esslinger said. “It’s not a contamination and it’s not toxic. It’s just a natural phenomena that happens every year.”
He said that during the dry months, all kinds of natural debris blow into the river and when the water is released, the material in the riverbed creates a chemical reaction with the water that results in the temporary foam.
It looks kind of icky and I’m not sure I’d be willing to wade around in it, but on the day my wife and dog Chester investigated, there were already some people wading in the turgid and foamy water.
The good news is that water is returning to the river and parched looking willows along the banks will soon be turning greener and the wildlife that lives along the bosque will be back. The birds that live along the river, especially the trilling red wing blackbirds, always make me happy when I hear their sound.
The lateral canals in our neighborhood will be getting water soon, making it feel like a creek runs through the area.
And of course, Chester will be all too eager to slosh around in the muddy water and get loads of sand in his fur that will result in a back yard hose down that he doesn’t particularly like. Ah summer!