March 17, 2023

Regional water planning bill passes House

Hannah Grover

Water from the Rio Grande is used to irrigate a field in Belen.

A bill to assist with regional water planning efforts passed the House of Representatives on Friday afternoon on a 62-0 vote.

SB 337 authorizes the Interstate Stream Commission to issue loans and grants for regional water planning and to develop regulations governing regional water planning entities. These entities would be required to submit a water security plan with prioritized projects.

The House amended the bill on the floor to clarify that the water security plans must take into account prior appropriation and that condemnation of water rights will not be allowed.

The amendment also changes language that instructed the regional water planning entities to pursue outcomes that “seek to equitably balance water uses.” Instead, the amended bill reads that it must “consider public welfare values, balancing water uses and the needs of future generations of New Mexicans.”

Rep. Jack Chatfield, R-Mosquero, worked with Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, on the amendment. Herrera is a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Liz Steanics, D-Cerillos. 

Chatfield said he and Herrera also spoke with the state engineer when drafting the amendment, which was adopted without opposition.

“I fully endorse this bill and I think we have a strong bill,” Chatfield said.

The Senate concurred with the amendment Friday evening and SB 337 now heads to the governor’s desk.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Senate has concurred with the amendment that passed in the House of Representatives.