'A water right is a hunting license not a warranty deed.
Overheard at the 19th Annual New
Mexico Water Dialogue Thursday, January 10, 2013
The official title was 'Reviving Water Planning: Successes, Challenges and Opportunities' but I prefer mine. One overwhelming point that stuck with me from the day: hard choices are going to need to be made about water. And those choices can be made more equitably through water planning - a collaborative effort involving varied interests.
There were a couple of elephants in the already well-populated room at the Pueblo Cultural Center. One was called-out by an attendee - the City, more accurately but irritatingly, the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, to whom we are to be eternally grateful for not having included 'wastewater' in their name. The 'they' there is actually nobody but well-paid staff and a fluid mix of representatives from the member governments. It's a structure, I believe, designed to distance it's member board from accountability and its actions from public transparency. The elephantine status comes from being the biggest water user in the State.
There are multiple water challenges, interests and solutions at every scale. The scope requires the definition, structure and involvement that planning entails. John Jones of Entranosa Water made the point that work in developing a water plan can be more valuable than the plan itself.
For planning to be successful, you have do it continually because change is constant. Planning documents are outdated the moment ink hits paper because players, conditions and issues are always changing. That's no reason not to plan. It's reason to do it continually. The importance is not contained in the planning document so much as in the spin-off things that come of it like legislation, policy shifts too subtle to be attributed to a single document, and simply educating everyone involved. It is about the trying more than the doing.
The people in the Dialogue understand water and the risks. More than once the room chilled with mention of "priority calls" and the size of Texas's war chest for water. Most are concerned that others aren't aware. Urban users specifically are insulated from water decisions by their water utilities and easily viewed as selfish and greedy. The laudatory self-back patting for conservation that the Water Authority regularly engages in with its Albuquerque customers will likely make it difficult to convince those rate-payers of the need for change.
The archaic and simple will prevail.
That message from Peter Pino of Zia Pueblo resonated. To me this means simple, low-tech, low cost, locally generated, low-energy consumptive solutions to multiple resource challenges. Water conservation, wastewater minimization and storm water use all fit. Distant pipeline transfers, massive pumping and desalinization don't. Neither does the fifties paradigm of economic development defined as new construction and growth without limits.