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State agencies tout water conservation in Lower Rio Grande


This summer, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (NMISC), in conjunction with the Office of the State Engineer’s (OSE) Las Cruces District IV Regional Office, will hold a series of online public outreach meetings to inform Lower Rio Grande area farmers about how to apply for grants that will compensate them for opting to let their land lie fallow instead of pumping groundwater to irrigate crops, OFE and NMISC said in a news release.

The online meetings will be held 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, July 29; 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3; and 1 to 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5. Visit www.ose.state.nm.us and click on hot topics for more information.

The meetings are part of a groundwater conservation pilot program “to help our state and water right owners to better understand the physical impacts of reduced groundwater pumping, “said State Engineer John R. D’Antonio. “This program is essential for the future management of the aquifers in the Lower Rio Grande at sustainable levels,” he said.

The public outreach is part of NMISC’s implementation of the state’s 50-Year Water Plan, the commission said.

“Low reservoir levels and lingering drought are just two of the many water challenges OSE and NMISC are faced with across our state,” the agencies said in a news release. “However, none is more profound than the pending litigation with Texas over water availability in the Lower Rio Grande. While this litigation works its way through the courts, there is no question that New Mexicans need to work together to maintain the productive aquifers in the Mesilla and Rincon valleys.

“Given the decline of these regional aquifers – since the signing of the 2008 operating agreement between the Texas irrigation district, the federal government  and the Elephant Butte Irrigation District Board – it is imperative that New Mexico continues to work with local entities to establish groundwater conservation practices that will help sustain aquifer levels for the purpose of a water source and a drought reserve in future years,” D’Antonio said.

Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID), based in Las Cruces, “is already decades into implementing most of the measures discussed in the plan,” EBID Treasurer-Manager Gary Esslinger said in a statement.

“The district and its agricultural producer members began planning and implementing water stewardship measures over 100 years ago and continue to this day,” Esslinger said. “Their planning and other actions have continuously proven to be successful water management techniques.

“When New Mexico’s 50-Year Water Plan was first enacted in 1987, EBID was one of the first to submit and receive acceptance of their regional plan,” Esslinger said. “The district began studying and implementing sustainable improvement and conservation programs long ago and continues to develop new approaches and methods.

“More than 30 years later, EBID is still working, not just to plan, but to implement projects in fulfillment of both legal obligations and the driving need to conserve and protect water resources during frequent regional droughts.”

New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, groundwater