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Editorial: State water plan crucial

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Water is a critical issue in New Mexico.

But in a state where demand exceeds supply, or soon will, the state doesn’t have a comprehensive plan for how to manage and prioritize this precious asset. That despite a state law requiring an inventory of water supply and demand. Fulfilling that requirement has been a decade in the making with little success.

The state is going to try again. It’s getting started with $800,000 in state money and the hope for another $700,000 next year. That funding, officials say, should be enough to complete in two years a state plan and 16 regional water plans that will set priorities for how state money is spent on water projects.

The effort is meeting with criticism — and some resistance – from water users across the state. Critics don’t like what they describe as a “top-down” process they fear won’t include enough input from local water users and that could result in a state-run program.

In the earlier effort, community water leaders developed their own ways of projecting supply and demand. That resulted in numbers that were difficult to compare, apples to apples. This time, the state will calculate the numbers so a consistent picture can be drawn.

State law requires a statewide plan. Doing it piecemeal didn’t work in the past. Now, it’s time for the stakeholders to get on board. The state should listen to and make every effort to include local and regional concerns, recognizing that everyone wants their turn at the spigot. But at the end of the day, some “top-down” decision making would seem unavoidable if we are to have a plan.

There should be a strong commitment to get this long-overdue job done. New Mexico’s economic health depends upon solid, realistic information and the strategy that springs from it.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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