As warming continues, ‘hot drought’ becomes the norm, not an exception

The signs of rising temperatures are obvious across New Mexico right now, from the mountains to the river valleys, and from rangelands to suburban backyards. “Climate change for the Southwest is all about water,” said Jonathan Overpeck, who has spent decades studying climate change and its impacts in the southwestern United States. Warming affects the amount of water flowing in streams, and the amount of water available to nourish forests, agricultural fields and orchards. There’s also the physics of the matter: A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, demanding more from land surfaces. Plants need more water, too.

NM Environment Review: news around NM, tribal water issues and #NMRivers

Elizabeth Miller writes in the Santa Fe Reporter about getting out to gaze at the dark skies. Benjamin Fisher tracks a U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn in the Gila National Forest. He also continues his dogged coverage of the Gila River diversion in the Silver City Daily Press. Adrian Hedden with the Carlsbad Current Argus has a story about restoration efforts on the Black River. In other news around the region, El Paso Electric lost $7 million in its first quarter of 2018 and a natural gas company is expanding facilities in Eddy and Lea counties.

Air Force: Training op caused March fire in East Mountains

A training exercise on Kirtland Air Force based ignited the early March fire in the East Mountains that spread across 200 acres. An investigation by the 277th Air Base Wing Safety showed the Piñon Juniper Fire was started by a ground burst simulator. Like smoke grenades, ground burst simulators are used to prepare military personnel for scenarios and sounds they might encounter in combat. James Fisher with Kirtland Public Affairs said an interdisciplinary team has since developed and implemented new guidelines for training with smoke canisters, diversionary devices and ground burst simulators during times of high fire risk. “Training procedures have been amended to ensure that risk associated with fire hazard conditions requires substitutions with non-hazardous equipment or omission of certain training activities,” according to Fisher.

A dry Rio Grande in springtime isn’t normal. But it will be.

I smell the mounds of dead fish before seeing them. By now, the fish are desiccated. Most lie in low spots along the riverbanks where they crammed together, taking refuge as the last of the puddles and rivulets dried. The temperature is in the high 80s as we trudge up the sandy channel of the Rio Grande upstream of the town of San Antonio. I wonder what it must have smelled like two or three weeks ago, when the river first dried here.

Given SCOTUS lawsuit, Texas keeps an eye on NM’s groundwater management

As drying in the Middle Rio Grande spreads, and a lawsuit over the river’s waters moves through the U.S. Supreme Court, a top Texas official is calling out New Mexico’s water boss. Texas’ commissioner on the Rio Grande Compact Commission, Patrick Gordon, wrote a letter to New Mexico State Engineer Tom Blaine earlier this month. In it, he noted that certain actions by Blaine could put New Mexico at risk for even greater damages if Texas prevails in its case on the Rio Grande. Specifically, Gordon is concerned Blaine will approve a copper company’s plan to pump more than a billion gallons of groundwater each year from near Hillsboro, N.M.

Doing so would would violate the Rio Grande Compact of 1938, Gordon wrote, adding: “These ongoing violations reinforce Texas’s action in the United States Supreme Court and add to its recoverable damages against New Mexico.”

Five years ago, Texas sued New Mexico and Colorado, alleging that by allowing farmers in southern New Mexico to pump groundwater near the Rio Grande, New Mexico failed for decades to send its legal share of water downstream. Texas filed the lawsuit after New Mexico sued over a 2008 operating agreement between the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, southern New Mexico farmers and Texas water users.

NM Environment Review: Oil and gas leases, climate planning, dust, minnows and more

-Andrew Oxford at the Santa Fe New Mexican reports a federal judge reversed his earlier opinion that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) when it approved oil leases in northwestern New Mexico. Instead, Judge James Browning threw out the 2015 case brought by community groups and environmentalists opposing the drilling activity. (You can read our recent story about the importance of the NHPA and tribal consultation here.)

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-According to a subscription-only story in InsideEPA, a draft report at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urges local government officials to adopt “worst-case” climate adaptation plans. (Back in the day, New Mexico had been studying the effects of climate change on New Mexicans.

Gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce on the environment

This week, we’re running a series of interviews with New Mexico’s four gubernatorial candidates, each of whom answered questions about issues related to water, energy and climate change. Steve Pearce currently serves as New Mexico’s second district congressman and is the lone Republican running for New Mexico governor. Pearce is also a veteran of the Vietnam War and owned and operated an oilfield services company. NMPR: Coming off a bad winter and with drought returning to the state, what critical water issues are you keeping an eye on right now in New Mexico? Steve Pearce: Water is maybe the most important issue that New Mexico faces.

Gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham on the environment

This week, we’re running a series of interviews with New Mexico’s four gubernatorial candidates, each of whom answered questions about issues related to water, energy and climate change. Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham currently serves as New Mexico’s congresswoman for the first congressional district. Before that, she worked in New Mexico state government as secretary of the Department of Aging and Long Term Services and the Department of Health. NMPR: We’re coming off a bad winter and drought has returned to the state, what critical water issues are you keeping an eye on right now? Michelle Lujan Grisham: I would actually disagree with your question.

Gubernatorial candidate Joseph Cervantes on the environment

This week, we’re running a series of interviews with New Mexico’s four gubernatorial candidates, each of whom answered questions about issues related to water, energy and climate change. Today, we feature state Senator Joseph Cervantes, a Democrat, who has served as a legislator for Doña Ana County since 2001. NMPR: We’re coming off a bad winter and we’ve got drought returning to the state. What critical water issues are you keeping an eye on right now? Joseph Cervantes: Clearly, the resolution of the Aamodt settlement and the Texas v. New Mexico litigation are critical to the state.

Gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca on the environment

This week, we’re running a series of interviews with New Mexico’s four gubernatorial candidates, each of whom answered questions about issues related to water, energy and climate change. We kick off the series with Democrat Jeff Apodaca. Apodaca is a former media executive and the son of former Gov. Jerry Apodaca. NMPR: We’re coming off a bad winter and we’ve got drought returning to the state. What critical water issues will your administration tackle?