Sunset Magazine recently came to realize something we have all known for years – Albuquerque is the best place to live in the Southwest. As business owner of Cutbow Coffee in Old Town, this is great news.
But in business, risk management is also part of my job. What are the challenges, what are the issues that can slow my business or keep it from growing? While we love the Southwest and the lifestyle it offers, here in the desert, water will always be a risk factor.
When water is in the headlines, I pay attention. In far-off Washington, D.C., the Supreme Court will decide if New Mexico farmers near the Rio Grande can pump groundwater to irrigate or if we have to send the water downstream for Texas. Colorado and New Mexico snow packs are below 50 percent of normal, signaling an extremely dry year for the San Juan and Chama, and an already drought-stressed Colorado River system.
When it comes to water, New Mexicans do not live on an island. In the Southwest, our water resources are determined by complex water sharing and agreements. We must collaborate on water while doing all we can here at home to make every drop count. This is especially true in my business, since we depend on water for our livelihood.
New Mexico and Albuquerque are national leaders in water conservation. We have done a great job incentivizing conservation through xeriscaping, toilet rebates, water conservation ordinances, and rain barrel incentives, just to name a few. In my own business, we use water in a very conscious way.
Building on these conservation instincts, we can do more. In Albuquerque, we are optimistic that Mayor Tim Keller and the City Council will enact policies that ensure a healthy balance between building a strong economy while ensuring that our water is available for many generations to come.
Regionally continued federal and state support for innovative programs like “system conservation” on the Colorado River is showing that voluntary pathways exist to boost levels in lakes Powell and Mead, and avoid mandatory cutbacks that could reduce water deliveries to tribes, cities and local acequias in New Mexico.
In many ways, Albuquerque is blessed to be directly connected to the two great river systems of the Southwest: the Rio Grande and the Colorado. In business, we diversify to manage risk and here in New Mexico our water supply is relatively secure, with extensive groundwater wells and 41 percent of our water being transported under the continental divide from the Colorado River system. What has become clear, however, is that challenges to these water sources will not go away. One way we can boost our resilience is restoring local rivers and streams, and the basins they drain. That is why I donate a portion of my revenue from coffee sales to the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance, because Agua es Vida (Water is Life).
At the federal level, Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich support system conservation and programs that invest in modern, efficient irrigation delivery systems that extend far beyond New Mexico. We are all in this together, and the interconnectedness of our water system dictates that national, regional and local attention to water supply and management will be critical to keep our communities, economy and rivers afloat.
Here in New Mexico we are truly blessed to live in a diverse community with our tribal neighbors and acequia systems that have existed for hundreds of years through water-sharing and conservation in times of drought and water shortages. We can learn from this communal approach to water management, and we must. Working together, we can build a secure water future for our children and for generations to come.
Cutbow Coffee is named after the cutbow trout.