Officials meet to discuss state water issues

July 23, 2013 • Local News

State legisla[auth] tors and water officials will meet today with regional district managers in Clovis to kick off a three-day summit to discuss the impacts of the drought on local agriculture and resources.

State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, chairman of the Drought Subcommittee of the Water and Natural Resources Committee, said hosting the meeting in Clovis was important.

“I believe it was important to bring this committee to rural parts of the state and hear from people in Chaves County and other agricultural areas about the problems they are encountering with the current drought conditions,” Cervantes said. “It will give citizens an opportunity to speak with us.”

One of the more important issues the committee will discuss today will be the priority call and agreement held between the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District and Carlsbad Irrigation District, Cervantes said.

In 2003, the CID, the PVACD, the state, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation entered into a settlement to ensure the state met its water delivery obligations to Texas and provide water to Carlsbad in times of shortage.

In April, the CID voted to demand a priority call on the Pecos River but the ongoing drought has complicated the delivery of water and has severely impacted PVACD.

Cervantes, who grew up in a farming family and has a background in agriculture business, said it’s time to reevaluate the state agreement.

“I think it’s important to evaluate the success, or lack of success, that follows from the agreement with Carlsbad and Roswell, and the agreement reached to address the water dispute back then,” Cervantes said. “We need to reevaluate the decision we made at that time and whether this is the model we follow in the future or not.”

CID Manager Dudley Jones said the district is in a “fact-finding mode” at this time. The district is in immediate need of relief to supply its 20,000 acres of farmland, though. Rain events have provided some temporary relief, Jones said.

“We’re sincerely looking at options to resolve the tension caused by the drought in the basin, and we’re open to viable alternatives or avenues to address those significant issues,” Jones said.

“This (committee) … can help mold or shape legislation that could relieve symptoms. Obviously, you can’t legislate rain.”

Aron Balok, director of PVACD, said more than anything, the meeting will be important for legislators to be able to hear from local constituents about how the drought impacts them.

“I don’t foresee going to this meeting and there being a silver bullet,” Balok said. “It’s important we keep talking about it. We’re in a situation now that nobody has ever seen before. We’re having to learn what this means and how to deal with that.”

The difficulty with discussing solutions can pose other problems, Balok said

“They want to find the solution and be done with it,” he said. “That’s part of the difficulty with discussing this. There’s so many moving pieces. Our water management is very complex. We have to make little adjustments across the board.

“The major exception to that is, if it rains tomorrow, then we got it whipped,” Balok said.

The committee will discuss several issues during the three-day event, including: legislation to address drought management, an update on the Pecos River priority call, the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Supply project, use of recoverable water, the Right to Farm legislation, Thermal Energy from Forest Biomass and renewable energy portfolio standards, government cooperation in forest watershed and fire management, technology for the recycling and reuse of water, and the future of agriculture in New Mexico.

“I think that the fact that we’re gong to be spending three days speaks to the legislators’ commitment at this time of these resources and to these issues,” Cervantes said. “It reflects the legislators’ recognition to provide leadership on these issues.”

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