The New Mexico legislature's interim Water and Natural Resources Committee met in Santa Fe recently. The key presentations of dire drought news and water administration "hot spots" were by the State Engineer and the Interstate Stream Commission Chair.
State Engineer Scott Verhines presented an interesting list of legislative "You Wants" that presumably sum-up the direction of water policy for the State. At the top of his list: "You want to aggressively protect our water from other states."
As during the regular session, staff presented a huge pile of sobering information at the meeting that no one had time to digest. Questions were not substantive, no actual work plan was established beyond meeting dates and the Committee Chairman Senator Phil Griego diverted a great deal of the committee's time to listening to lamentations about the Lesser Prairie Chicken and dry boat ramps on Conchas Lake - both of which seemed out of context and far less important than basic water policy. One might almost suspect that committee attention was purposefully diverted to avoid the giant, tough, ugly questions.
Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino wrote about the meeting and suggested some of those hard questions.
Is it wise to rely on unproven technology to bail us out? Does desalinization of brackish water from deep aquifers offer anything more than a temporary fix? Can we build a pipeline from the Mississippi Valley to move millions of acre feet uphill—and does that make economic, environmental or social sense? Would systems for water recycling and reuse change the situation enough to justify the capital investments required? Is cloud seeding anything more than a pipe dream?
Great questions. But don't expect to hear anything about them at the next interim Water and Natural Resources Committee meeting.