A Tipping Point Foretold

State Government will do its Part! We must all do our Parts.

The 2023 Legislature and the Governor took significant new steps toward the goal of sustainable governance of New Mexico’s limited and declining water resources. From the vantage point of a few years into the future, will we see the 2023 Legislature’s positive actions as a tipping point?  Will the Legislature, the Governor, state water agency leaders, and New Mexico water users accelerate the state’s progress toward sustainable resilience of our water supplies?   The Middle Rio Grande Water Advocates push to see that all levels of Middle Rio Grande water governance do their parts.

We pledge to redouble our work with others to make it so.  Working together, we can leverage the 2023 Legislature’s significant actions and funding to motivate greater progress.  We can turn this concept of a 2023 water governance tipping point into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

Let’s make our overarching goal the acceleration of progress toward the transformative changes in water governance that resilience of water supplies requires, while dampening trajectories toward confrontations and violence.  In this context, violence includes harm and threats to each other, water institutions, public health, equity and diversity, and cultural values, for example.

MRGWA, through work with others, seeks to be a catalyst that creates transformative change in state-wide water governance, enabling New Mexico’s successful adaptation to water scarcity.

What did the 2023 Legislature do that could become transformative? Two things:

  • First, they passed, without a single no vote along the way, a substantive new regional water resilience planning law.  The new law authorizes and assigns responsibility for a collaboration of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and the regions and communities of New Mexico to vet and prioritize the policies, programs, and projects we require for a more water resilient future.  
  • Second, they appropriated significant sums toward improved water governance.  That gets critically important work moving, providing enough funding for: 
    • the ISC to get started standing-up the robust new regional water planning program created by the new law, 
    • New Mexico Tech to hold a new series of water issues education conferences for legislators, 
    • the State Engineer to take initial steps for New Mexico to adhere to the commitments it made in the Lower Rio Grande interstate litigation settlement with Texas and improve downstream water conveyance to prevent the Middle Rio Grande’s pending compact water delivery violation, 
    • the State Engineer and Interstate Stream Commission to fill eleven new positions.

However, many critical water governance needs, including implementation of the 2019 Water Data Act, received far from adequate funding.

What is needed?  We need to convince our Governor and the Legislature to staff and fund water resilience programs.  Governance of water is an urgent New Mexico problem requiring increased resources to develop and implement solutions, for the next decade and beyond.  Solutions require substantial changes to the status quo for New Mexico to survive its more arid future.  Our top elected officials must understand that New Mexico’s water governance programs are of paramount, existential importance to New Mexico’s future, and that every year of delay forecloses opportunities.  

Beyond the eleven positions provided during the 2023 Legislature, we must rebuild water agencies’ capacity to perform their critical functions and take on overuse of New Mexico’s declining water supplies, as set forth in the NM Water Policy and Infrastructure Task Force recommendations.  State government must reverse the reductions in quality staffing and program funding suffered over the past decade, well beyond the 2023 Legislature’s important but small steps forward.

Water agencies and the public have an urgent need for 21st century information systems and modern, more productive business processes.  It’s appropriate to view the 2023 Legislatures funding to replace one aged and woefully inadequate water adjudication information system as a small down payment toward the policy and essential technology investment that New Mexico’s future requires.  We must work together to respectfully demand State government do its part, which is to measure and govern the state’s water resources so that our water supplies and uses are resilient and available for use now and by future generations of New Mexicans.

Water is Life.  Let’s work together to do our part, which is to help cause the state and our water institutions to have sufficient resources to do their parts, to put in place actions and policies to sustainably conserve and make resilient the water supplies that our lives, our environment, and our economy depend on.