"Water from the Rio Grande Project, coupled with improved farming methods, has transformed a formerly desert-like region into a lush, productive landscape. Astronaut John Glenn - as the Mercury capsule Friendship 7 reentered the earth's atmosphere in 1962 and passed over New Mexico - described the project area as a ribbon of green extending straight north from the Mexico border."
- Bureau of Reclamation brochure, 1982
One of the first major efforts to increase farming and encourage habitation in the arid regions of the western United States, the Rio Grande Project was designed to provide reliable irrigation as well as resolve a dispute over water supply with the Republic of Mexico. The project's centerpiece is Elephant Butte Dam, a concrete gravity structure 301 feet high and 1,674 feet wide. Elephant Butte Reservoir - with a surface area of 36,600 acres and a capacity of more than 2.2 million acre-feet - was the largest reservoir in the world at the time of its completion.
Today, the Rio Grande Project provides irrigation for almost 200,000 acres in New Mexico and west Texas along with 25,000 acres in Mexico. A pioneering accomplishment, the Rio Grande Project provided significant experience for many of its engineers, two of whom - Arthur P. Davis and Louis C. Hill-later served as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.