Water Monitoring and Measurement
Monitoring and measurement of water across New Mexico, has been far less thorough than is needed to adequately plan for and manage our water resources. While there are some programs working to improve the lack of knowledge, they are poorly funded, and in many cases suffer pushback from those who would rather not be monitored or measured.
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Description of the Issue
Available water and water uses in New Mexico in many cases are unknown. This makes for hit-or-miss management, with multiple resulting problems. More pervasive measurement of our resources and of our uses of those resources are necessary in a water-short environment.
A 2002 report from the Office of the State Engineer/Interstate Stream Commission addressed the need to improve water measurements. "Good forecasts, and therefore good management, are strongly dependent on accurate measurement of streamflow, diversions from streams, pumping from wells, water levels in wells, return flows, evapotranspiration by crops and natural vegetation, evaporation from open water and snow, and many other components of the hydrologic balance. ... New initiatives such as requirements for metering of pumping, estimation of evapotranspiration through the use of remote sensing, and gaging of flows in ditches and drains within irrigation projects deserve public and legislative support."
Budget cuts have caused water measurements to decline. We have fewer operational stream gages, have abandoned monitoring of some aquifers, and have made other cuts that substitute contractor work without public reporting of data for routine monitoring of flows by the US Geological Support including their integral quality control and digital data Internet availability services.
The state water plan must include a detailed plan to ramp up measurements to the degree that will support our need to manage water as the amounts available to us decline or change substantially in order that we can supply current and future uses and comply with New Mexico's interstate obligations.