County must acknowledge the state's water crisis and deny Santolina - Albuquerque Journal

County must acknowledge the state’s water crisis and deny Santolina

The Middle Rio Grande Valley is in a water crisis. The sight of a bone-dry riverbed is a look into our future – a future of less and less water available to us. We need to prepare ourselves for that future and make wise decisions about how we manage the resource that sustains our life here.

Our elected officials and decision-makers need to recognize and acknowledge our new reality, and act accordingly. This pivotal moment demands a new water consciousness. We need water governance that is responsible, and sustainable for current and future generations.

This is a public invitation for the Bernalillo County Commission to do the right thing and deny the proposed Santolina plans.

These plans should be denied for many reasons, first and foremost that, in the face of climate change in increasing drought, is there enough water for a housing development the size of Rio Rancho? Allowing this development to go ahead will only intensify the fight among existing water users, sowing the seeds of conflict in our community, and facilitating the destruction of our agricultural community and the very river itself.

As if our hydrological reality was not reason enough, the County Commission also has not demonstrated good governance with regard to Santolina. For eight years, the county has held the developers and community members to seemingly different standards under the same rules. The fact that the developers still do not have an agreement with any water authority to supply water and yet are still being allowed to move forward is glaring evidence of the county not following its own procedures, which normally require documentation of water availability earlier in the master planning process. Additionally, the County Planning Commission (CPC) recommended denial of both plans at its March 2 hearing. Because the CPC recommendation was not appealed by the developers, Santolina should not even be heard today, Aug. 16, under the county’s own rules.

If the County Commission nevertheless considers the Santolina master plans, it should affirm the CPC’s recommendation to deny both. Santolina has devolved from a master plan to a piecemeal scheme that spends public money to fill the pockets of investors and developers at the expense of the people who live here and depend on the water in the Rio Grande and our aquifer.

We are not opposed to development. We want smart growth, development that contributes to the health and well-being of our people – not one that reduces the lifespan of our community.

We thank our creator for the recent rains, but we know our mega-drought will not be relieved by a few weeks of monsoons. We are entering a new era in New Mexico. In order to thrive, we must work together to figure out a new way of living together on this river and on this land.

Again, we invite all residents and officials to contemplate our future in the face of aridification and act to ensure our water security for future generations. We invite the Bernalillo County Commission to do the right thing, be part of the solution and be responsible decision-makers instead of making things worse.

Deny Santolina.

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