NEW MEXICO STATE ENGINEER ENDORSES EFFORTS OF A GROUNDWATER USERS GROUP IN THE LOWER RIO GRANDE
TO SOLVE CRITICAL WATER MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES
Texas’ lawsuit over water deliveries from New Mexico and Colorado, persistent water supply and demand stresses and the desire to sustain the quality of life enjoyed by so many southern New Mexicans, has brought together some unlikely allies who are trying to adopt groundwater management policies to address these challenges. In order to move this effort forward, the New Mexico State Engineer, Mr. Tom Blaine met recently with representatives of the Lower Rio Grande Water Users (the “Water Users”) to discuss ways to implement a plan to better manage water resources and resolve pending disputes over the use of water in the Lower Rio Grande basin. The plan, known as the Settlement Framework, was recently adopted by the Water Users whose members include the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Pecan Growers Association, Southern Rio Grande Diversified Crop Farmers Association, Public Service Company of New Mexico and Camino Real Regional Utility Authority.
Also attending the planning session were representatives of the Water Resource Research Institute (WRRI), which is a state wide consortium for water research, education and outreach based at New Mexico State University.
The Settlement Framework is an agreement amongst users of around 90% of the groundwater in the Lower Rio Grande. The group believes the core elements needed to advance sustainable management of groundwater in the LRG are:
1. Adopt revisions to the 2008 Operating Agreement for the Rio Grande Project in a form acceptable to both the current parties to the Agreement and to the Water Users.
2. Manage groundwater to (1) protect Rio Grande project supplies, (2) protect the rights of senior groundwater users, (3) implement adaptive management techniques for groundwater to assure sustainable and resilient supplies, and (4) establish mechanisms for flexible and rapid changes in the use of water.
3. Establish methods for measuring, managing or offsetting surface or river water depletions not covered by the current Operating Agreement, such as municipal and industrial users like cities, universities, power plants and mutual domestics, where needed.
4. Secure agreement that senior water right holders such as farmers, City of Las Cruces and New Mexico State University not seek priority enforcement against one another.
The Water Users say they are committed to this effort and will continue to meet regularly with the State Engineer to evaluate progress and implement the Settlement Framework.