Water Advocates are at the forefront of equitable water adaptation efforts in New Mexico and the Middle Rio Grande. Our call, “Think Water: Act Now!” emphasizes our commitment to a proactive, inclusive strategy that is essential improved water resilience and sustainability outcomes. Our unwavering advocacy ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session catalyzed the unanimous passage of the 2023 Water Security Planning Act, and the Governor’s signature. With this milestone achieved, our focus now pivots to implementation of this landmark legislation within the Middle Rio Grande and across New Mexico. Because Without Water, There is Nothing.
Path to Success:
The Water Advocates are committed to work with others to create an inclusive and fully representative Middle Rio Grande water planning council by the end of 2024, using the best public processes and expert guidance that is available, and leveraging the foundation already in place. The problem of water governance in New Mexico to bring sustainable resilience is a wicked problem. Solutions to wicked problems required community-driven solutions. Development of community-driven solutions requires collective action. Dry wells tell us we are late pivoting to face increasing water scarcity. All of our current water uses together must become much lower.
The Water Advocates reached out to an internationally experienced team of experts in collaborative processes to guide us in laying the groundwork for a robust process involving representatives from all Middle Rio Grande stakeholders, communities, and sectors to co-create the Middle Rio Grande Water Planning Council, in accordance with the new law. These consultants are experienced in best practices to include the engagement of representatives of all key stakeholders to co-create collaborative solutions to wicked problems.
We’re championing an inclusive approach, rallying stakeholders for a holistic public process culminating in the formation of the new Middle Rio Grande Regional Water Planning Council, prior to the 2025 Legislature. Slated for October 2024 and dependent on securing funding, a strategic collaboration summit will take place over two days to produce an agreed strategic plan to co-create the Council. Leading up to this, a diverse ‘design team’ will commence groundwork in February 2024. The design team, after the summit, will work to translate the Summit’s agreed strategic plan into the Council’s creation.
Legislative Objective and Support:
Our plea to legislators: Recognize that water is essential to everything else and the perils of the status quo in management of our rapidly depleting groundwater and shrinking surface water supplies.
For the Council to be able to hit the ground running, it’s imperative that the 2024 Legislature earmark funds for deployment at the onset of FY25. This will enable the Council to swing into action in late 2025 or early 2026, tweaked as necessary for official state approval, which is necessary to receive state funding pursuant to the 2023 Act.
Water Data Dashboard and Education:
Under the aegis of Prof. Ramiro Jordan from the University of New Mexico, student teams – earning class credit – are working with Water Advocates volunteer instructors and mentors Norm Gaume and Peter Coha to develop a Middle Rio Grande Water Data Dashboard website prototype. This tool will demystify water sources, consumption trends, and deficits. With its intuitive design, the dashboard will elucidate the intricate balance and growing gaps between our water supplies and consumption patterns, shedding light on current challenges and knowledge gaps to inform timely and impactful decision-making.
An illustrious executive advisory committee, composed of local officials and New Mexico’s eminent water experts, will provide invaluable guidance, refining the dashboard to offer a comprehensive overview of the Middle Valley’s water scenario.
Alliances and Collaborations:
Strategic alliances with advocacy organizations like 350NM and Interfaith Power and Light are pivotal for effecting lasting change. Coordinated campaigns and co-branded resources are in development to supercharge our outreach.
In synergistic collaboration, the New Mexico Water Dialogue is collaborating with the Water Advocates to co-produce the 29th Annual Statewide Meeting in Albuquerque on January 11, 2024. This gathering will delve into the collaborative framework mandated by the 2023 Water Security Planning Act and will offer, literally, a marketplace of ideas for the afternoon session devoted for discussions proposed by and marketed to participants by participants.
The non-partisan League of Women Voters of New Mexico is co-sponsoring the Water Advocates ‘3rd Thursday’ workshops, including the public interest in Middle Rio Grande water management workshop featuring Bernalillo County Commission Chair Barbara Baca last week. Each monthly workshop features an important aspect of the 2023 Act.
Website and Outreach:
Growing traffic on the Water Advocates’ website attests to the escalating public engagement and burgeoning interest in facing our pending water crises and doing something about them.
The Water Advocates currently are seeking a Reclamation WaterSMART grant tailored for collaborative watershed management groups like us. If we succeed, this grant will allow the Water Advocates to hire a full time collaborative process organizer and writer, and fund increased public education and outreach efforts to champion community-centric interests in the Middle Rio Grande, fostering collective problem-solving and transformative solutions.
The Water Advocates aspire to help produce an inclusive public collaborative process that will be seen, after we succeed, as an exemplar in facing increasing aridity and water scarcity in the Southwest. At this juncture, New Mexico and the Middle Rio Grande stand on the precipice, necessitating unified, swift action to combat looming water challenges. With the legal framework now in place, New Mexicans must establish collaborative regional water security planning authorities across New Mexico. This, paired with legislative endorsement, public engagement, and holistic stakeholder participation, is the linchpin for sustainable water conservation and governance in the collaboratively agreed public interest.
The combined might of Water Advocates, the Water Ambassadors, current water resources agencies leadership and staff, legislative leadership, diverse scientists, diverse allies, emerging local elected officials and institutional managers, and the engaged public, holds the promise of driving transformative change statewide, and in the Middle Rio Grande. Together, we’re charting the course for New Mexico’s and the Middle Rio Grande’s equitable response to escalating water scarcity.