Stream commission holding regional meetings

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

Portales and Tucumcari are hosting two of 21 statewide meetings
scheduled as the Interstate Stream Commission looks for public comments
on how the state balances its future water needs with its supply.

The state is updating 16 regional and separate water plans, merging them into one for New Mexico.

The stream commission meetings are 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. May 5 in
Portales at the Memorial Building and May 6 at the Tucumcari Convention

The state water plan, first introduced in 2003, is updated by law every five years.

Maureen Haney, public relations specialist for the Office of the
State Engineer and the ISC, said the updating process started in 2008.

Haney said four issues the meetings will focus on are:

• Population changes for regions across New Mexico

• Climate variability (rain, drought, etc.)

• Infrastructure needs

• Conservation efforts

Eastern New Mexico belongs to the Northeast Region, which includes
Union, Harding, Quay, Curry and Roosevelt counties. The regional water
plan notes drought vulnerability, economic development needs, border
issues with Texas and infrastructure needs.

“The biggest dilemma is (residents) function on 75 percent
groundwater and 25 percent surface water,” said Gretel Fogelstad, a
planner for the Northeast Region since last 2008. “The hydrology says
there is a significant gap between supply and demand.”

One change that will be incorporated in the plan will be the Ute Water Project, authorized last week by President Barack Obama.

The pipeline, when completed, would pump water from the Ute
Reservoir in Quay County to eight entities making up the Eastern New
Mexico Rural Water Authority.

Water at the reservoir is reserved by authority members and other communities studying alternate delivery methods.

“It’s a great thing,” Fogelstad said. “It will provide an alternate
water supply for industrial and municipal. In addition to that, it’s a
high priority for that whole region to work on water conservation.”

Haney said one difficulty in building a statewide comprehensive water plan is New Mexico’s mix of landscapes.

New Mexico has vegetation that ranges from desert to forest to plains.

“That’s why it’s important,” Haney said, “for each region to have
its plan … but it’s a difficult process for exactly that reason.”

On the net

The Northeast Regional Water Plan