Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Rep. Melanie Stansbury has been awarded a top distinction from the U.S. Water Alliance for her work on water policy.
The first-term congressional Democrat from New Mexico said receiving the U.S. Water Prize for Outstanding Public Official is a “huge honor” that she hopes will direct more attention to climate change impacts on water.
“New Mexico is looking at potentially losing almost all of its snowpack in the next 50 years,” Stansbury told the Journal. “The challenge we’re facing is how to use that knowledge to inform how we manage our water going forward, so that we can continue cultural practices, agriculture and survival of our communities.”
Stansbury served in the New Mexico House of Representatives beginning in 2019 before being elected in June 2021 to the U.S. seat vacated by Deb Haaland.
She sponsored New Mexico’s Water Data Act in 2019. The law tasks state agencies with standardizing and integrating water data. The initiative’s website features hundreds of downloadable databases on water levels, quality and use.
“We are living in a world that has been radically transformed by data,” Stansbury said. “We use our phones to get from place to place, order takeout and do online shopping. But we didn’t have those same resources developed around water, even though it’s one of the most fundamental, precious aspects of life.”
As a state lawmaker, Stansbury also sponsored bills funding aquifer mapping technology and soil health programs.
The U.S. Water Alliance is a national nonprofit promoting sustainable water management.
“The Water Data Act has already streamlined data sharing and improved collaboration between agencies, especially for water managers who now have access to previously siloed data on water resources,” the alliance’s award citation for Stansbury says. “This insight is even more valuable as temperatures and aridity increase due to climate change.”
Western water issues are playing out on the federal stage as Congress works through a major infrastructure package and budget reconciliation bill.
Stansbury serves on several House subcommittees for water and science. She believes New Mexico can “lead the way” on investments in water and wastewater systems, as well as incorporating climate change data in water management.
“As a state filled with place-based and water-based communities, we understand the importance of water as part of our culture and identity and way of life,” Stansbury said. “We have communities that have lived here for generations and since time immemorial who have come together to find innovative solutions to water challenges.”
Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.