Water reckoning looms in New Mexico’s future: ‘We’re not prepared for what’s ahead of us’

Water experts painted a grim picture of New Mexico’s water future during a panel discussion focused on water policy and management. The panel was hosted by Retake Democracy, an advocacy group based in Santa Fe. 

Dave Gutzler, a professor at UNM’s Earth and Planetary Sciences department, emphasized that climate change is here, and is already impacting the state’s precipitation patterns. 

“Anyone who’s lived here for a while knows that variability is endemic to New Mexico,” Gutzler said. “But the climate is now changing in ways that go beyond natural variability.”

Gutzler said climate change will have three major impacts to water resources in the state. 

“One of them is that the temperature is going up. It’s already going up rapidly,” he said, pointing to data that shows average temperatures in the state have already risen 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1970s. 

“That is causing rapid decline in snowpack, rapid increase in evaporation rates, [and] a decrease in groundwater recharge,” he said. “Just the temperature change itself will have an effect on a lot of resources.”

Gutzler said the climate will also become more “energetic” and variable. 

“That means the rainfall will tend to be delivered in more intense doses, and the dry spells will also be more intense,” he said. 

And thirdly, he said, the weather will permanently move north. 

“We expect the winter storm track to shift northward and take the precipitation— rain and snow—with it,” he said.

Re-introducing our statewide environment wrap-up

With summertime in the rearview mirror, we’re shifting gears at NM Political Report. Every Thursday, I’ll be sending out a review of environmental news around the state to a new email list. Subscribe below to receive the full email each Thursday! It’s just one email a week, with a New Mexico photo-of-the-week and information about upcoming public meetings and comment periods. #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; width:100%;} /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block.

Commission approves water plans amid backdrop of falling water supply

At Monday’s meeting of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC), directors voted to accept two of the state’s regional water plans, one for Lea County and another for the Lower Pecos Valley. The plans are part of a legislatively-mandated regional water planning effort, which at some point is supposed to be rolled into an updated water plan for the entire state. The process dates back to the 1980s. Over the past few years, ISC staff, consultants and local stakeholders have updated plans for each of the state’s 16 water districts. All regional water plan must be accepted by the Interstate Stream Commission, a public body made up of governor appointees.