NM to measure gaps between water supply, demand

December 15, 2013 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The state of New Mexico is reviving its effort to calculate the gaps between New Mexico’s finite water supplies and the needs of a growing population so that it can help prioritize state projects and policies to deal with the gaps.

But the Albuquerque Journal reports ( ) that critics believe that the state’s top-down approach in its water planning is bypassing the voices of local water users.

The state launched a similar planning process more than a decade ago, but efforts to complete the project faltered.

Officials acknowledge that, despite a state law requiring an [auth] inventory of water supply and demand, previous efforts came up short. “We concluded we were not doing meaningful planning,” said Mark Sanchez, head of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission’s water planning subcommittee.

The new effort is being launched with $800,000 in state funding and a projection by state officials that, if they get another $700,000 next year, they can complete 16 regional water plans and a state plan summing up the findings within two years.

The planning process, still in its early stages, has revived a longstanding conflict between community leaders and state government. At issue is who will control the numbers. In past regional water planning, local communities developed their own supply and demand projections. This time around, the state says it will calculate the numbers for each of the state’s 16 regions.

State officials say their approach is needed to create a common foundation for understanding the state’s water problems, said Estevan Lopez, head of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. The last effort to write a state water plan was hampered by the fact that each region used its own approach to calculating water supply and demand, making apples-to-apples comparisons impossible, Lopez said.

“All of the regions kind of did things their own way,” Lopez said.

State officials this time around plan to do all the water supply and demand calculations themselves, handing that data over to local committees in each of the 16 regions.

That undercuts the value of planning at the regional level, said Steve Hernandez, a Las Cruces water attorney and pecan grower who worked on the Lower Rio Grande Regional Water Plan in the 1990s.

“The state has now taken over the role of dictating supply and demand numbers for each region,” Hernandez said.

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