March 9, 2023

Water planning bill passes Senate unanimously

Hannah Grover/NM Political Report

A bill that would enable the Interstate Stream Commission to provide loans or grants to regional water planning efforts passed the state Senate on a 39-0 vote.

SB 337, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Cerillos, and Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, would further instruct the ISC to create regulations that would govern the size and composition of regional water planning entities. Each entity would submit a water security plan to the ISC.

Senators described SB 337 as critical legislation, as the state struggles with water security.

“We all know that drought, water is an issue all over the state, for farmers, ranchers, cities, counties, towns, small acequias, communities,” Stefanics said.

She said the bill updates ISC statutes and involves the community more in water planning. It comes as a result of the 50-year water plan efforts. 

Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, spoke about the water loss that occurs when transporting or storing water, especially in the context of water used for agricultural purposes. He said water storage is going to be critical in the future.

“We do know that water evaporates before it gets to its intended use,” Stefanics said. “We’ve been up in the Navajo Nation area where some of the ponds, due to the drought, never come down into the irrigation ditches. We’ve been in areas of the state where the acequias have gone dry. The fire, of course, has affected it. We’ve been down south in some of the ranch land where we are dependent upon the little tiny plants carrying some of the moisture for the cattle to feed on.”

Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said SB 337 is a “critical piece as we navigate through the challenges that we face as a state.”

SB 337 now heads to the House of Representatives.