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water among competing uses because it does not establish priority relative to other users. The

variability of the Rio Grande illustrates the importance of priority assignment. Figure 3 indicates

the flows of the Rio Grande measured at the Otowi gauging station. The heavy horizontal line is

the annual average of little more than 1,000,000 aft per year. But notice there are numerous

drought years when the flow is 500,000 aft or less. At 500,000 aft of annual flow, 286,000 aft is

due at Elephant Butte Dam b y the Compact, leaving 214,000 aft available for the Middle Rio

Grande. But the Middle Rio Grande consumptively uses 300,000 aft. Who is first in line to get

the 214,000 aft? This is the purpose of priority – to allocate the available water among many

users. Let us put it another way, a water right is not a guarantee of water but a place in line to get

water.

Figure 3: Flow of Rio Grande at Otowi Gauging Station

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1895 1898 1901 1904 1910 1913 1920 1923 1926 1929 1932 1935 1938 1941 1944 1947 1950 1953 1956 1959 1962 1965 1968 1971 1974 1977 1980 1983 1986 1989 1992

Adjudication improves water diversion efficiency. The test of beneficial use is a stern

master. It raises the bar on efficiency that irrigation districts must achieve in running their

operations. An adjudication hearing would ask the question why these amounts of diversion to

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