News Feature | December 1, 2021

New Mexico Water Official Presses Lawmakers To Prioritize Dwindling Source Water

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


In one the country’s most drought-plagued states, a water official is calling out legislators for not doing enough to prepare for increased source water scarcity in the future.

“New Mexico’s top water official said that … lawmakers have to provide enough funding to protect one of New Mexico’s most precious commodities,” the Midland Daily News reported. “State Engineer John D’Antonio told members of a key legislative panel that the Office of the State Engineer is lacking resources and is short dozens of staff. He said the shortfall equates to 140,000 lost staff hours per year at a time when the agency is processing nearly 90,000 water right transactions and is involved in negotiations that range from settlements with Indigenous nations to water-sharing contracts with other western states.”

New Mexico is currently embroiled in a legal battle over management of the Rio Grande River as the state’s agricultural industry is struggling to access the source water it needs to continue operations.

“The lack of water in southeast New Mexico has farmers scrambling to come up with new ways to keep their land producing,” KRQE reported. “‘They are pretty much dependent on groundwater for all their water needs, household, city, water systems and agriculture and they’re basically using it up faster than it is being replaced,’ said Geoffrey Rawling, senior field geologist at New Mexico Tech.”

D’Antonio opted to resign shortly after making his comments to the legislative panel. But while providing that testimony, he noted that as in much of the U.S., New Mexico’s water problems are poised to grow worse before they get any better.

“When asked whether this dry year would be considered one of New Mexico’s wetter years five decades from now, D’Antonio said he hoped that wouldn’t be the case but noted that trends are pointing to warmer temperatures and more variable precipitation,” per the Daily News. “Existing New Mexico laws that allow for active management of water rights on a real-time basis will be key along with boosting infrastructure for water storage.”

To read more about how water systems prepare for ongoing drought conditions, visit Water Online’s Source Water Scarcity Solutions Center.