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eNews November 2019

64th Annual New Mexico Water Conference Focuses on Tribal Perspectives on Water Issues

By Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Nearly 250 participants from across the state and region gathered at the Pueblo of Pojoaque’s Buffalo Thunder Resort near Santa Fe, New Mexico for the 64th Annual New Mexico Water Conference on November 7-8. With the theme this year Common Water, Sacred Water: Tribal perspectives on water issues in New Mexico, this first-of-its-kind Annual New Mexico Water Conference addressed water issues facing the tribes, nations, and pueblos across New Mexico.

The day before the conference began, participants had the opportunity to attend one of two field trips. Santa Clara Pueblo hosted a morning field trip, demonstrating to attendees the forest restoration efforts in Santa Clara Canyon following the devastation of the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. Participants in this field trip also had the chance to visit the Puye Cliff Dwellings, the ancestral home of the Santa Clara people. Later in the day, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation staff gave participants a tour of numerous project sites associated with the Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System located within San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, Nambe, and Tesuque Pueblos. As authorized by the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act, the water system will provide a firm, reliable supply of safe drinking water to residents of the Pojoaque Basin.

Over the two-day conference, tribal leaders and water experts addressed a host of important and timely topics, such as Indian water rights settlements, tribal water quality, infrastructure, climate change, watershed restoration, and the role of both traditional and modern science in water management. Slides from presentations are available on the conference website here.

The conference also hosted two luncheons with speakers. Longtime Cochiti Pueblo advocate Regis Pecos gave a stirring firsthand account of the struggle with the U.S. Government over the construction of Cochiti Dam. After concluding his presentation by asking participants to consider what future generations will inherit from us, a troupe of three and four-year-old dancers from Pojoaque Pueblo’s Early Childhood Center gave a performance of the Comanche dance, meant as a prayer for safe travel.

The Friday, November 8 luncheon featured the 2019 Albert E. Utton Memorial Water Lecture given by author Sandra Postel, based on her latest book, Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity. Postel’s lecture demonstrated ways in which farmers, cities, conservationists and engineers across the U.S and around the world are re-shaping 21st century water management to meet the challenges ahead.

This year, 43 poster presenters, many of whom were university students from across the state, showcased their current water related research projects during the poster session. As PDFs of posters become available by presenters, NM WRRI will post them on the conference website.

A conference proceedings will be prepared in the coming months, and once completed, will be available via the NM WRRI website.