State Faces Extreme Statewide Water Depletion with Hands Tied, Critical Discussion Tonight

We also offer summaries & links to last week’s posts on hopes of economic transformation and a just transition, the continued decline of the GOP & an election strategy update. 50 days, my friends and much to do.

In addition to an election update and links to last week’s posts (at the bottom of the post), we also offer an analysis of the state of water in NM. And it is not a pretty picture.

Click here for more information and to register for our NM Water Crisis Zoom.
The article below will give you real motivation for doing so.

All Hands On Deck:
50 Days til Nov 3

Tomorrow I will offer word on how northeast Ohio professional sports teams have organized a massive campaign around social and racial justice & using their significant regional influence to increase voter registration and get out the vote. Inspiring stuff. We will also offer another guest post, this one from a member of Portland’s Veterans for Peace with commentary from Heather Cox Richardson to underscore how urgent election activism is at this very moment.

With 50 days to go, some states are already voting, others will start soon and so now is the time to utilize Retake’s four part election strategy. It is perfectly clear that a landslide on Nov 3 is required to prevent total chaos on Nov 4. Please, go to our Get Out The Vote strategy and write to your friends in other states and strongly encourage them to make a plan for voting and ask them to then to tell all their friends. The social capital you have with your friends will be useless on Nov 4. Use it now, get them active. Click here to GOTV.: IT WILL TAKE YOU TEN MINUTES.

Sept 12 Retake Conversation with Dahr Jamail. Dahr Jamail is an award winning climate crisis author who penned The End of Ice, identified as one of the ten best science books in 2019 by the Smithsonian. We’ve had Dahr on the show before and he has been part of one of our first Zoominars. If you haven’t seen Dahr speak, you will want to watch this 40 minute discussion of how horridly NM is regulating the out of control gas and oil industry. We also range on to speak of still larger climate-related issues. A MUST watch video.

2006 Update to the NM State Water Plan Told Us What Needed to Be Done: We’ve Done None of It & The Crisis is Here, Now

Rio Grande Is Drying Up

The 2006 climate change-informed update to the 2004 NM State Water Plan laid out exactly how NM should plan for managing what will continue to be a dwindling water supply. Until very recently, we had entirely ignored the plan’s solid recommendations. Tuesday night we will discuss the crisis and emerging efforts to address the crisis with a panel comprised of four of our state’s foremost experts on water management and climate change.

Last week, in preparation for our Tuesday Zoominar, I read the 2006 update to the 2004 report. In the Executive Summary, the plan laid out the nature of New Mexico’s water challenge very clearly:

  • Temperatures have already risen in New Mexico and are predicted to continue to increase; e.g. August 2020, ave temp in Santa Fe 91, August historically it is 83;
  • Changes in snowpack elevations and water equivalency; e.g. 2020 early runoff, almost no snow in March
  • Changes in available water volumes and in the timing of water availability; e.g. at least in Santa Fe, next to no monsoons in 2020
  • Increasing precipitation in the form of rain rather than snow due to increasing temperatures; see above, on early runoff in 2020
  • Smaller spring runoff volumes and/or earlier runoff that will impact water availability for irrigation and for ecological and species needs;
  • Milder winters and hotter summers, resulting in longer growing seasons and increased plant and human water use;
  • Increased evaporative losses from reservoirs, streamflows and soils due to hotter, drier conditions;
  • increased evapotranspiration by agricultural and riparian plants;
  • an increase in extreme events, including both drought and floods. and e.g. snow the first week of September, 2020.

The 2006 update to the State Water Plan went on to note:

“In the Western United States, the availability of water has become a serious concern for many communities and rural areas. Near population centers, surface-water supplies are fully appropriated, and many communities are dependent upon ground water drawn from storage, which is an unsustainable strategy.”

THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON NEW MEXICO’S WATER SUPPLY AND ABILITY TO MANAGE WATER RESOURCES, Principal author, Anne Watkins, Special Assistant to the State Engineer, 2006

The 2006 plan update also pointed to precisely what needed to be done about this crisis:

“A State water conservation plan for this sector would establish policies and strategies to decrease both domestic and commercial use, along with appropriate State programs to facilitate and accelerate implementation of practices with the greatest potential for successful reduction of water use. Such a plan should include such accepted strategies as metering; per capita usage goals; subdivision, development and construction code changes to encourage water efficiency and grey water reuse; and land use guidelines to encourage water-efficient development landscaping.”

THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON NEW MEXICO’S WATER SUPPLY AND ABILITY TO MANAGE WATER RESOURCES, Principal author, Anne Watkins, Special Assistant to the State Engineer, 2006

With such a clear articulation of a daunting challenge and an outline for what needed to be done, one would think that policy makers would have organized around the plans excellent recommendations. But until very recently, that has simply not occurred. One of our panelists for Tuesday’s Zoom is Dr. David Gutzler, UNM’s internationally renowned climate scientist. In a brief commenting on the state’s failure to act, he aptly wonders how long policy makers can ignore climate science:

“Academics often wonder what it takes for research that indicates big long-term
problems to get shifted from the ‘important’ pile — interesting, but usually not actionable — to the ‘urgent’ pile, where policy gets enacted. We all hope that such problems aren’t ignored until those that are ‘urgent’  become ’emergencies’ (see: California wildfires).”

Dr. David Gutzler,

There is a cost for inaction. Another member of the Tuesday panel is Norm Gaume, the former Director of the Interstate Stream Commission and a member of our Transformation Study Group. He alerted me some weeks ago to the dire crisis NM faces in relation to water management. In a brief he wrote for Bernalillo County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty, Gaume commented:

“The Middle Rio Grande is in a bind.  Its uses of water exceed its legally available supply by a substantial margin.  We may end this year with a cumulative shortfall of 100,000 acre-feet in our legal water delivery obligations to New Mexicans and Texans downstream of Elephant Butte.  Yet, we fail to act on the certainty that climate change will further decrease our water supplies and increase our water needs and depletions.

Norm Gaume, Former Director of the Interstate Stream Commission

Not only do we fail to act, we act as if the water crisis doesn’t exist. We continue to use billions of gallons of water in fracking operations; devote billions more gallons to high water use crops like alfalfa and pecans; we build more golf courses; and approve massive, water-depleting developments such as the 22 square mile Santolina, a development projected to house 90,000 new Bernalillo County residents.

These are not the actions of a state that has come together to face down a mounting crisis. These are not the actions of a state that has developed integrated plans and policies that force us to treat water as an invaluable and increasingly limited resource. In his brief to the Bernalillo County Commission, Gaume went on to point out, that the Middle Rio Grange is legally obligated to deliver far more water to residents of southern NM and Texas and this is a debt that will come due in 2022. In this context, it is fortunate that there appear to be efforts emerging to address these challenges systemically and at a state level.

As reported in the ABQ Journal “New Mexico’s most recent water plan was rolled out in 2018 and includes details about policies, historical legal cases and regional water plans. While it offers an inventory of the state’s needs, critics have said it fell short of laying out a concrete path for how to solve New Mexico’s water problems.” To address these limitations, in the 2020 legislative session, the Governor sought $750,000 to fund development of a 50 year State Water Plan, but the legislature refused to approve the funding….and this was before the gas and oil price collapse and COVID. And while the legislature did authorize the Office of State Engineer hiring two specialists to advance the plan, that was scrapped during the Special Session. And so, efforts to mount a serious 50 year study are seriously hamstrung.

New Material Added 11am Monday. Norm Gaume offered additional commentary on the status of NM’s commitment to serious water planning:

  • Governor Lujan Grisham’s pre-election water policy paper was encouraging.   She called for important initiatives, including developing a 50-year water plan.  But we’ve made no progress in developing that plan.  What’s more,the Interstate Stream Commission claims insufficient resources to start such planning, yet its approved work plan will fritter away $350,000 appropriated for water planning on multiple projects run by other government agencies.
  • The Martinez Administration’s 2018 New Mexico State Water Plan fails to address any of New Mexico’s serious gaps between supply and demand.  The draft didn’t mention the state’s seven interstate water compacts, even though the 2003 State Water Plan Act says compact compliance is one of eight subjects that must be addressed in a State Water Plan.  The final version only mentions them and doesn’t address climate change.
  • Neither the Governor nor the Legislature have failed to provide the Office of the State Engineer and the NM Interstate Stream Commission with sufficient resources to develop anything like the plan that is needed.  These agencies are limping along with about the same resources today that remained at the end of the Martinez administration.  Some believe Martinez’s huge cuts and agency professional staff retirements and resignations essentially destroyed the agencies’ capacities.   
  • Much of eastern New Mexico is out of water.  The Ogallala aquifer in the Clovis area has been pumped dry by farmers on both sides of the state line.  There is a race to the bottom for what little remains. 
  • We face similar futures in other areas of the state that depend on closed basin aquifers where demand is huge compared to recharge.  Do we have plans to sustain human needs and other economic uses supplied by these aquifers or stop the mining of water before it’s all gone?  No.   Do we have data to be sure of what we are doing and know how much water remains to be mined?  No.
  • David Gutzler provided a climate change briefing to Chair Matthew McQueen’s House Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2019 for the entirety of the committee’s 2019 opening meeting.  He summarized,

My plea is that we need to modernize water policy in New Mexico as best we can and as equitably as we can but in recognition of a changing climate in which surface water supplies are diminished across the state.  I think we have no choice but to do that.  Please don’t ignore what is happening with the supply of water in our state and what is likely to happen in the future.

It’s better to plan than to get thrown under the bus.  Sooner is better than later.

David Gutzer, UNM Climate Scientist

But while the state legislature failed to act, advocates from the Middle Rio Grande Water Advocates (MRGWA) are moving forward. A third panelist on Tuesday’s Zoominar is Theresa Cardenas, an advocate and the current President of MRGWA, the only non-governmental organization focused on water quantity in the Middle Rio Grande. MRGWA hosts a new website that will serve as an resource for updates on the Governor’s emerging 50 Year Water Plan. MRGWA is also a driver of the Rio Grande New Mexico Basin Study which seeks to develop a credible, technically based model of the Rio Grande’s possible futures.

Our fourth panelist is Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-ABQ), the foremost water expert in the NM state legislature. In a Retake Conversation, Rep. Stansbury on August 5, she noted that the state is legally constrained in its ability to manage its water and that she is planning a number of legislative actions to untie the state’s hands. On Tuesday, she will outline her plan for helping the state get a rein on its overuse of water and failure to comply with federal and state laws limiting water use.

Taken together, I hope our readers understand the importance of our conversation tomorrow night. Most of us really do not appreciate the complexity of the crisis and the challenging labyrinth of laws and regulations that make addressing those challenges more difficult. For over a decade, NM fiddled while its water resources dwindled. Find out how the status of the unfunded 50 Year Water Plan, the MRGWA’s advocacy, the Rio Grande New Mexico Water Basin Study, and legislative efforts led by Rep. Stansbury offer a beacon of hope that we are finally beginning to grapple with this crisis.

We strongly encourage your registering for this discussion and telling a few friends to attend, as well. Come January, Rep. Stansbury will need a well-educated and well-coordinated advocacy effort to support her efforts to free the state to address this dire crisis. And as the summary above makes clear, we have the right people in the room for this discussion. Now we just need you.

Click here for more information and to register.

A Most Momentous Week

Labor Day Edition:
The Election to Protect Our Essential Workers

Monday, September 7. When this was published, we had 56 days (now 50) with the fate of our nation & our future at stake. Trump will do ANYTHING to retain power. In this post, we featured an update on how you can get involved and offered a look back at last week’s posts on transformation to inspire you, with pieces on transforming health care and energy systems in NM. Not all was transformational, however, as the last piece featured was Dahr Jamail’s scathing investigative report of the MLG administration’s utter failure to regulate and out-of-control gas and oil industry.

Click here to read the full post.

Economic & Climate Recovery Require a Green New Deal Well Beyond Biden and So…

Wednesday, September 9. The Intercept published a piece on how this recession is so different, how COVID has changed us, & how typical stimulus strategies can’t work. The analysis conducted by The Intercept is compelling, outlining how in 2009 we jump started the economy by infusing vast sums of money into the banking, auto and other industries. The Intercept goes on to describe how that strategy can’t succeed in 2021 because the strategy relied upon consumers responding to the stimulus by buying the services and products sold by these bailed out industries. But in 2009, while many people lost their homes, most still had jobs, incomes and the capacity to buy. Today, jobs are missing and people have learned to do without many of the services and products that industry has to sell. The solution is inspiring: A vast Green New Deal that goes well beyond building constructing a renewable energy grid and rebuilding bridges. While Biden may not seem the likely leader of a vast just transition, the post offered evidence that perhaps he could well fit the bill. Remember, LBJ was no left wing standard bearer and look at the social policies he moved through Congress.

Click here to read the full post.

Are We Living in a “Plastic Moment”
When Transformation is Possible? A Most Hopeful Post

Friday, September 11. We examine an Atlantic piece that outlines how we may be at one of those rare historic moments when our shared misery, a misery of epic proportions encounters a functional government that hears our cries, and hope, trust & common ground emerge. The Atlantic does a brilliant job of examining historic political swings in the US, referencing the progressive era from the 1890s through the early 20th century and then the next progressive era from 1932-1965. This is a very worthwhile and very uplifting read, an important antidote to much of the media noise and Trump threats.

Click here to review the full post.

Bonus Guest Post: B*itches, Suckers & Today’s GOP

A Broken GOP

Sunday, September 13. On Sunday, we offered up a guest post from Adam Wasserman a member of our Transformation Study Group. His post focuses upon the implications of the GOP House Representative calling AOC a bitch, of Trump calling soldiers suckers, and the deplorable state of the GOP that has become nothing less than enablers for a diseased right wing movement. A most thoughtful and thought provoking piece. We also offer a link to our interview with Dahr Jamail. Stay hopeful.

Click here to read the full post.

Stay hopeful and active, friends. We’ve got 50 days to fix this mess.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne



Categories: Climate Change, Agriculture, Land Use & Wildlife

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4 replies

  1. Regarding election activism: I want to encourage readers to take action through Swing Left/VoteForward’s letter-writing campaigns. It is actually rewarding! And some of the campaigns you can choose from align with Professor Sam Wang’s analyses of “moneyball” elections, so your effort really is likely to be effective.

  2. Regarding the water crisis in NM, what about the water that will be required in the plutonium pit production at LANL that we were not able to comment on?

  3. We can do something about these specific things: “We continue to use billions of gallons of water in fracking operations; devote billions more gallons to high water use crops like alfalfa and pecans; we build more golf courses; and approve massive, water-depleting developments such as the 22 square mile Santolina, a development projected to house 90,000 new Bernalillo County residents.“

  4. and the last thing we should be encouraging is Fracking

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