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Rio Grande, Spanish Río Grande del Norte, or (in Mexico) Río Bravo, or Río Bravo del Norte, fifth longest river of North America, and the 20th longest in the world, flows through the state of New Mexico then forming the border between the U.S. state of Texas and Mexico. Rising as a clear, snow-fed mountain stream more than 12,000 feet above sea level in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the Rio Grande descends across steppes and deserts, watering rich agricultural regions as it flows on its way to the Gulf of Mexico at Brownsville, Texas. The total length of the river is about 1,900 miles.
The principal tributaries of the Rio Grande are the Conejos River, Pecos River, Devils, Chama, and Puerco rivers in the United States and the Conchos, Salado, and San Juan in Mexico. The peak of flow may occur in any month from April to October.
Dams on the Rio Grande include Rio Grande Dam, Cochiti Dam, Elephant Butte Dam, Caballo Dam, Amistad Dam, Falcon Dam, Anzalduas Dam, and Retamal Dam. In southern New Mexico and the upper portion of the Texas border segment, the river’s discharge dwindles. Diversions, mainly for agricultural irrigation, have increased the natural decrease in flow such that by the time the river reaches Presidio, little or no water is left. Below Presidio, the Rio Conchos restores the flow of water. Near Presidio, the river’s discharge is frequently zero. Its average discharge is 178 cubic feet per second , down from 945 cubic feet per second at Elephant Butte Dam. Supplemented by other tributaries, the Rio Grande’s discharge increases to its maximum annual average of 3,504 cubic feet per second near Rio Grande City. Large diversions for irrigation below Rio Grande City reduce the river’s average flow to 889 cubic feet per second at Brownsville and Matamoros.
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