The Middle Rio Grande Valley has enjoyed moisture over the last few weeks. However, although it appears that rain, water and hopefully snow will be in abundance, the fact of the matter is we remain in a critical drought. The issues facing us in New Mexico did not happen overnight, and the solutions for creating a better environment are before us if we take common sense steps on our water issues.
As the N.M. state representative for District 11, I represent constituents of Bernalillo County. As we continue to experience drought conditions in New Mexico and the Southwest, I am committed to working with my counterparts to foster water solutions that will positively impact our economies and communities.
As a member of the New Mexico House Appropriations, Taxation and Revenue and Rules and Business committees, I understand the importance of long-term strategies and conservation efforts that are needed to ensure that our beautiful state and communities thrive. In the summer of 2018, Middle Rio Grande municipalities and entities agreed to water releases to maintain healthy rivers:
• Belen released 97 million gallons of water.
• Bernalillo and Los Lunas collectively agreed to release 65 million gallons.
• The Club at Las Campanas released 97 million gallons from the Jicarilla Apache Nation to save critical areas along the Rio Grande;
• Audubon New Mexico initiated the release of 324 million gallons of water into a 34-mile drying stretch of the Middle Rio Grande, augmenting vital streamflow needed to sustain century old cottonwoods, wetlands, birds and wildlife in stretches of the river that are experiencing severe drying due to drought conditions.
This was a great collaborative short-term effort; however, a diversified and long-term strategy needs to be developed.
Albuquerque, Santa Fe and the Middle Rio Grande are blessed to be directly connected to the two great river systems of the Southwest: the Rio Grande and the Colorado River. When water is in the headlines, I pay attention as 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 were below 50% of normal last year, and long-term projections are signaling continued droughts in the Southwest which will affect water levels in the San Juan and Chama – in already drought-stressed Rio Grande and Colorado River systems.
New Mexicans are not isolated in the challenges we face with water shortages. In the Southwest, our water resources are determined by a complex set of agreements, water sharing and laws. We must collaborate on water while doing all we can here at home to make every drop count. This is especially true in the middle Rio Grande corridor, since we depend on water for our businesses, our farms and our livelihoods.
New Mexico is truly blessed to be home to a diverse community with our tribal nations 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 work together to build a secure water future.
I am committed to working with my counterparts in New Mexico, tribal and acequia communities and our neighbors in the Southwest to enact policies that ensure a healthy balance between building a strong economy and serving our community needs for generations to come.