Holistic Water Governance Reforms

New Mexico faces serious water problems as population increases, climate warms, water demands grow, and water sources shrink.  Since current water law was established in 1907, much has changed, including laws in a patchwork way.  New Mexico needs a thoroughgoing review and update of its legal and operational means for governing water.

Posts - Any technical papers, data, opinions, announcements, etc. that relate to this Holistic Water Reforms issue appear just below.

From the President’s Desk: “The Middle Rio Grande Water Governance Forecast is for Accelerating Progress in 2024!”

By Norm Gaume | January 10, 2024

Part II – “Co-Creation of a Sustainable Water Future for the Middle Rio Grande.”
The past two years have set the stage for accelerated progress in managing New Mexico’s water resources for much greater resilience, as described in Part I, a 2023 summary report. Part II is about 2024.

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Water Funding by the 2024 Legislature is Essential. Please tell your legislators.

By Norm Gaume | January 10, 2024

Together, New Mexicans made significant strides in addressing the multifaceted challenges of water management and conservation in New Mexico in 2023.

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2023 Year-End Report – From the President’s Desk

By Norm Gaume | December 29, 2023

Together, New Mexicans made significant strides in addressing the multifaceted challenges of water management and conservation in New Mexico in 2023.

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The Urgent State of the Rio Grande

By Norm Gaume | October 3, 2023

Water is Life! Our fight against escalating water consumption and the impending scarcity demands unified, concerted efforts from all sectors and communities. It is essential to align on the objective of water conservation and embark on sustainable practices immediately. The onus is not on the State alone; it’s a collective responsibility to ensure the preservation and sustainability of water resources for the generations to follow. 

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From the President’s Desk

By Norm Gaume | October 2, 2023

September was a pivotal month in advancing equitable adaptation to escalating water scarcity within the Middle Rio Grande. Please follow our work and attend our October and November events.

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The 2024 Legislature Must Think Water: Act Now!

By Executive Council | August 10, 2023

Wake Up New Mexico. Collectively, we are asleep at the wheel. Our collective inaction puts our water security, and therefore our economic security, at risk.

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By Marcia Fernandez | August 10, 2023

People know what they want and what they need.  The planning process must help communities distinguish between these two things so we can figure out a way for everyone to share  equitably in the abundance or scarcity of water. 

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Water: An Urgent Community Problem Requiring A Community-Driven Solution

By Norm Gaume | July 31, 2023

Water problems in New Mexico are community problems. The only way to generate sustainable solutions is to understand water as a collective action problem and empower the people to take action.

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A Tipping Point Foretold

By Executive Council | July 7, 2023

Will the future see the 2023 Legislature’s approval of new water policy laws and funding as a tipping point? As advocates for the improved water governance that New Mexico’s future requires, let’s work together to make it so!

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State Engineer’s Water Policy and Infrastructure Task Force Report

By Norm Gaume | January 11, 2023

New Mexico enters 2023 in a water crisis. But with unprecedented peril comes unprecedented opportunity.
To address that challenge, and those opportunities, a diverse task force of stakeholders from across New Mexico came together from June to November 2022, studying the problems and coming to broad, shared conclusions: our challenges are dire, but there are things we can do if we act now.

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We welcome postings on this or other water-related issues from interested parties.  Please email your posts, preferably in Word format, to the Editorial Board at Info@MRGWaterAdvocates.org

Description of the Issue

New Mexico's water law was built piecemeal over decades using model state law statutes prepared by the Bureau of Reclamation and required the be state law as a condition for federal water development, which means construction of dams and irrigation projects.    Some of the state law dates back to the 1907 Territorial Water Code, which was required in order to proceed with construction of Elephant Butte.  Other significant chunks of law were added to provide for regulation of groundwater pumping to protect adjacent rivers and artesian aquifers.  Of course, many other specific amendments and additions have been made by the Legislature and signed by the Governor over the years.

New Mexico's law is prior appropriation, which means any senior right is superior to any junior water right.  The water use is immaterial.  Theoretically, junior rights would be curtailed to the extent and as necessary that the senior rights would have a full supply.   In practice, New Mexico has no stomach for such a system of priority administration, with the default being informal shortage sharing or continued overpumping of groundwater and aquifer depletion.

In most New Mexico examples, no such bill has come due.  Exceptions are the Pecos River Compact Amended Decree in 1982, which required that New Mexico never again owe Pecos River water to Texas and subsequently cost over $200 million in State funds to assure compliance.   Such a bill will likely result from the current Lower Rio Grande litigation where Texas and the USA are both suing New Mexico in the US Supreme Court over its use of water below Elephant Butte Dam.

One thoughtful elected official believes that New Mexico must implement transformative change in its governance of its water, including in its water law, in order to survive.  Piecemeal attempts to amend state water law have been criticized as "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."   Holistic water reform is the alternative to piecemeal fixes--or continuing to try to get by without doing much at all--the current practice of NM's state water quantity administration agencies.

Leadership is required.  Advocay is needed to help gather the political will to take needed actions.

Even Texas puts water requirements to meet basic human needs as the highest of water use priorities.   What will we do, New Mexico?



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