Drought planning: Water shortages expected in New Mexico
Drought planning: Water shortages expected in New Mexico.
Managers in the state’s 16 water planning districts have spent the past three years crunching numbers and analyzing historic data to help create a collection of plans that identify supply gaps and possible solutions.
"We are really working with a limited resource in the state, increased demands and variable water supplies from year to year," Blaine said Thursday.
"Those are the challenges that we really need to be looking at when we start developing what our statewide plan looks like."
The need to have more comprehensive and consistent information about the challenges in specific regions came to a head in 2013 as New Mexico approached 36 straight months of extreme drought conditions, making for the driest and hottest period in more than a century.
Along the Middle Rio Grande Valley, the state’s most populated area, managers warn that the supply from the river and groundwater pumping would meet only half the region’s demand in drought years.
Officials in southern New Mexico say they would like to maintain that region’s values — including agriculture and the viability of rural communities — as water shortages are addressed.
Sam Fernald, director of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, said more integrated approaches are needed and that options like water banking, shortage sharing and desalination will have to be part of the conversation.
"That’s a challenge around the whole West," he said.
That’s a big question."