Opportunity Knocked. Will We Open the Door?

How We Could Preserve Our Water Future

At the New Mexico Water Dialogue’s annual statewide meeting (January 13-14, 2021) the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) launched the process to develop a Fifty-Year Water Plan for New Mexico.  The plan presents a new opportunity to really face up to and address New Mexico’s scarcity of water issues in each unique hydrologic region.  Issues now troublesome will be exacerbated by climate change and population growth over the planning period set by the Governor.  Let’s not let this opportunity go by!


The Bigger Picture:  The ISC, assigned water planning responsibility by statute, must ensure that planning for NM water properly happens, including:

  • Establishing the ISC’s roles and responsibilities for effective water planning to increase water supply resilience
  • Identifying, funding, and supporting appropriate institutional entities to do water planning properly, with scientific integrity and accountability
  • Reviewing, approving, and supporting implementation of water plans

Within that ISC role, we believe that water planning has an overall purpose and value.  It should:

  • Identify the nature and magnitude of NM’s current and future water problems at the appropriate geographic scales
  • Develop solutions for scarcity of water and our changing climate before problems become acute and NM is left with little choice
  • Present evaluated and prioritized strategies or actions to increase NM’s water future resilience

 The Current Project:  Within that ISC role assignment and the overall water planning purpose, the Governor requested a Fifty-Year Water Plan that supports water stewardship, sustainability, and equity within a robust, ongoing statewide water management program.  Let’s give the Governor the support she needs!

What It Will Take:  In the context of the Governor’s policy, we presume the purpose of the initial 16-month phase of the Fifty-Year Water Plan is to set the stage and justify effective detailed, science-based planning for New Mexico’s long-term water future including:

  • Bridge communication gaps among stakeholders (individual, local, regional, and state)
  • Identify the locale, nature, and magnitude of water resources/shortfalls across the next 50 years
  • Alert stakeholders to the nature and magnitude of shortfalls
  • Identify the key or major problems that are already known to be facing New Mexico
  • Recognize and organize planning around New Mexico’s distinct hydrologic resources
  • Identify and/or establish the state, regional, and local ongoing planning entities that will conduct water planning to improve water supply resilience
  • Enable responsible entities to develop science-based solutions to current difficulties that will worsen or emerge over the next five decades by considering:
    • Sound geohydrologic science and data
    • Mechanisms to increase supply
    • Mechanisms to reduce losses
    • Mechanisms to reduce human demand
    • Mechanisms to improve the equitable distribution of the shared supply
    • Mechanisms to support public values

Lest We Forget:  In support of all that Fifty-Year Water Plan guidance, we already have examples of problems that must be addressed by water planning entities at appropriate levels. They include:

  • Growing demand for a significantly dwindling supply
  • Need to meet interstate compacts reliably over decades regardless of weather/climate
  • Wants and/or permissions for water exceeding the legally and physically available supply
  • Existing permissions for uses that will drain certain NM aquifers toward extinction
  • Water availability not co-located with water demand
  • Providing water to support human needs equitably
  • Meeting recreation, riparian, cultural, habitat values  
  • Failure to have adequate shortage sharing agreements in place
  • Water for future generations

The Takeaway Point:  The Legislature must recognize the importance and potential of the Fifty-Year Water Plan and provide the requested $750,000 special appropriation for water planning so that the ISC, and all the folks it engages, can implement the appropriate planning processes to improve the health and resilience of New Mexico’s water future.