New Mexico’s geology can make it hard for small water systems to meet safe drinking quality standards required by state and federal law.
Last month, the New Mexico Environment Department issued 50 notices of violation to drinking water utilities statewide. While many of them were for issues like failing to submit the proper reports or samples and do not necessarily mean the water is unsafe to drink, some of the water utilities were required to notify customers about samples exceeding maximum contaminant levels for substances like fluoride or uranium. “A lot of what you see is naturally occurring fluoride from the geological strata, same thing we see with some of the natural occurring radioactive material,” John Rhoderick, NMED’s director of the Water Protection Division, said. “It’s very common across New Mexico.”
Regionalization efforts may be key to helping small water systems remove some of these naturally occurring substances. Earlier this year, the legislature passed a law aimed at making it easier for water systems to regionalize.
The Colorado River supplies water for more than 36 million people in two countries and seven states, including New Mexico. As river flows and reservoir levels decline due to drought, warming and over-demand, states are wrangling over how to voluntarily conserve water use—before reservoir levels reach critically low levels and trigger mandatory cutbacks. New Mexico is one of the states most vulnerable to the impacts climate change is wreaking on the river. Yet, it’s unclear what the state is doing when it comes to drought management in the state and basin-wide negotiations on the Colorado. The seven states subject to the Colorado River Compact are divided into Upper Basin states—Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah—and Lower Basin states—Arizona, Nevada and California.
Both major political parties saw some signs of encouragement in municipal elections Tuesday. The most high-profile election took place in Santa Fe. Not only is the state capital one of the largest cities in the state, it also used ranked choice voting for the first time. Santa Fe voters chose Alan Webber as the next mayor. The election had high turnout with 38 percent of the city’s registered voters taking part.
On Black Friday, you can line up outside a big box store hours before sunrise, shove your way through the crowd and perhaps, victoriously snap a selfie with the discounted flat screen television you scored. But if you’re lucky enough to have the day off on Friday and want to disentangle from the stress of bills, work, school, social media and politics, you have other options. There’s a movement afoot to wrest the day after Thanksgiving from the clutches of consumerism. And New Mexico is the perfect place to join the revolution. Even though the #OptOutside campaign itself emerged from the retail world—REI decided not to open its stores on the post-Thanksgiving retail day and instead give employees the day off—it’s entirely possible to have fun outside without buying any recreational equipment at all.
Santa Fe voters rejected another tax increase, this time in a low-turnout special election. The increase would have raised the gross receipts tax in Santa Fe County by one-sixteenth of one percent, or 6.25 percent on every $100 spent. The results were anything but close—70 percent of the voters opposed the increase. Unlike the sugary-drink tax election, which drew a lot of campaign spending and relatively high turnout, unofficial numbers from the Santa Fe County clerk showed just under 8,000 voters cast ballots for the gross receipts tax election, less than ten percent of the county’s registered voters. The state’s base gross receipts tax, which applies to most goods and services but not food or medicine, is 5.125 percent.
If you could get high on a city, Fiestas weekend on the Plaza is where you would go to breathe in the essence of Santa Fe. This past Saturday, generations of families and others came to laze around in the late-afternoon sunlight. The smells of fry bread and meat wafted in the air as chomped corn cobs piled up in trash cans. Folklorico music and mariachi trumpets mixed with Baby Boomer-era hits like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” as small children bounded on the grass, a few shooting at each other with toy guns. This story originally appeared at the Santa Fe Reporter and is reprinted with permission.
Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales announced Wednesday that he will not seek a second four year term in office. Gonzales said the decision not to run “wasn’t easy.”
The mayor announced the news in an email to supporters, highlighting his accomplishments while in office. The one-term mayor said he wishes to spend more time with his two daughters. Gonzales’ decision leaves the city’s mayoral election, six months away, wide-open. While Gonzales didn’t mention his political future, he indicated he will take some time out of public service.
The Donald Trump administration suffered another setback in federal court over an executive order after a federal judge ruled Tuesday the administration cannot enforce an order to stop funds from going to so-called “sanctuary cities.”
The lawsuit, brought by cities including San Francisco, Santa Clara and later joined by the city of Santa Fe said the executive order is unconstitutional and granted a nationwide injunction, which blocks the order from going into effect anywhere in the country. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales said in a statement the ruling was an indication that the federal government wasn’t listening to local governments. “Rather than listening to cities, the closest governments to the people, and working with us to fix a badly broken federal immigration system or institute trade and immigration policies that benefit the centers of innovation that are driving this country’s economy, President Trump has opted to declare war on us,” he said. “And that’s a shame.”
Gonzales has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the sanctuary city executive order and rhetoric from the Trump administration. “Our city’s history going back 400 years and the success and vibrancy we enjoy today has depended on it, and those are the values that won in court today,” the mayor said.
Throughout the state Saturday, activists and others marched as part of the worldwide “March for Science” that coincided with Earth Day. The largest rally in New Mexico took place in Albuquerque, at the Albuquerque Civic Plaza. In Las Cruces on Saturday morning, more than 500 people marched around downtown, then joined a rally with speakers and music. In Santa Fe, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, addressed the crowd, saying that science isn’t a partisan issue and that all “policymakers need scientists so we can make good decisions.” He also said the federal scientists, working at agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, should “be able to do their work for the American people without worrying about political interference.”
Udall said that climate change is the “moral, political and scientific challenge of our time, and we must face it head on, aggressively.”
Albuquerque’s event featured several people wearing colorful costumes, including one person dressed as a dinosaur and a couple dressed as both the Grim Reaper and a medieval plague doctor. Jackie Coombes, a microbiologist dressed as the plague doctor, said she is worried about the consequences of the federal government cutting funding on vaccines.
Next month, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales may face the biggest test of his mayoral career so far as voters decide whether or not to approve a tax increase on sugary beverages that he’s championed. The idea is to tax sugary beverages 2 cents per ounce. That money will pay for 1,000 spots in existing pre-kindergarten education facilities around the city for children of low-income families. Matt Ross, a spokesman with the mayor’s office, said that the city doesn’t need to use the additional revenue to create a public early childhood education program because of existing private and nonprofit preschools in Santa Fe. “The capacity is there, there’s just a lack of affordability,” Ross said in an interview.