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 Center.
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