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Friday, February 14, 2003

'Gray Water' Bill Backed

By Tania Soussan
Journal Staff Writer
    SANTA FE The Senate Conservation Committee tackled several controversial water issues Wednesday, including how to encourage farmers to conserve water and moving agricultural water to cities.
    The committee also without discussion endorsed a bill by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, that would allow the use of "gray water" to irrigate residential landscaping.
    That bill (SB 113) would allow up to 250 gallons a day of bath and laundry water, but not dishwater or water from laundering diapers, to be used for gardens and landscaping.
    The committee endorsed two bills by Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, that would give acequias more control over their water.
    "I think it's about time acequias determine their own fate," said Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose.
    One bill (SB 124) would allow acequias to temporarily move water from one farm to another within their system, a traditional practice. The second bill (SB 123) would forbid acequia members from selling their water rights to cities or others if the transfer would be detrimental to the acequia as a whole.
    D.L. Sanders, general counsel for the state Engineer Office, said it could make transfers from agricultural to municipal uses more difficult. "The cities are going to have to work a lot harder, I think, to get water," he said.
    Such transfers would become easier under another bill (SB 373) introduced by Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, and endorsed by the committee. That bill would streamline leases of agricultural water for such things as municipal use and meeting Rio Grande deliveries to Texas.
    Two bills by Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Albuquerque, designed to encourage agricultural conservation also were approved by the committee. One (SB 127) would give farmers a tax credit of up to $1,000 for installing drip irrigation.
    The second bill (SB 128) would protect irrigators from forfeiting their water rights if they reduce their use through conservation. State law says that anyone who does not put their water to beneficial use risks forfeiture.