ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Navajo Nation currently consumes 6 percent of the surface water in the state of New Mexico, according to an analysis by the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. The agency also says a water rights agreement among the state, federal and Navajo Nation governments would give the Navajo Nation an additional 4 percent.
This is smaller than the number frequently cited by Albuquerque attorney Victor Marshall, the agreement’s leading opponent, who has claimed in court filings and fact sheets provided to legislators that the deal gives the Navajo Nation approximately one third of the surface water in New Mexico.
Asked for the data behind that claim, Marshall acknowledged uncertainty about the numbers. “I have said all along I’m not sure exactly what those numbers are,” Marshall told members of the Senate Finance Committee on Jan. 31.
A Journal analysis of publicly available data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission supports the state’s claim that the Navajo Nation’s water use is approximately 6 percent of the state’s surface water, rising to 10 percent under the terms of the water settlement agreement. Even so, Marshall believes the settlement is a bad deal for the rest of the state.