Recommendations address planning, water rights, storm-water and wastewater reuse, watersheds, brackish water, financing and other changes New Mexicans want a balanced water policy that plans for future shortages, expands water storage and reuse, addresses legal issues, and protects environmental resources. They want to explore the potential of cleaning up brackish water (non-potable, highly salty water) in our aquifers. They also identified potential improvements to the ways the state finances water projects.
These recommendations and others resulted from a New Mexico First statewide town hall attended by over 300 people and held in Albuquerque April 15-16. The meeting, entitled “A Town Hall on Water Planning, Development and Use,” brought together people from 31 New Mexico counties. Participants came from small, medium, and large towns and included business leaders, industrial water users, environmental advocates, researchers, municipal water planners, farmers and ranchers, government professionals, elected officials and students.
“We had a remarkable group of committed citizens at the water town hall,” said Heather Balas, president of New Mexico First. “They addressed the topic in an integrated way – tackling environmental, industrial, municipal and research issues all together.
A full report on the town hall will be released in two weeks, but examples of the strategies identified include:
- Implement long term comprehensive watershed scale restoration projects to foster healthy ecosystem function and resilience, including wildfire protection plans.
- Improve the state and regional planning process, including dedicated funding, consistent data across regions, and the best available science on current and future water supply.
- Develop emergency plans and sharing agreements to address allocation of water during times of shortage.
- Fund and initiate new water supply and storage projects such as aquifer storage and recovery (ASR), reclaimed wastewater, surface water storage, storm water capture and water delivery enhancement.
- Improve the funding process for water investments, including better coordination among funders and improved leveraging of revolving loan programs, grants, user fees and federal funds.
- Clarify the processes for use of brackish water, as well as use and re-use of produced water (non-potable water used in oil and gas drilling).
- Increase the efficiency, timeliness and fairness of the adjudication process, while also strengthening the water market through clear and fair water right transfer policies.
The town hall is convened by New Mexico First, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy organization that engages people in important issues facing their state or community. Established in 1986, NM First offers unique town halls and forums that create recommendations for policymakers and the public. New Mexico First also produces nonpartisan reports on critical issues facing the state. These reports on topics like water, education, healthcare, economic development, and energy are available at nmfirst.org.