SB 1 Regional Water System Resiliency

Summary: SB 1 Regional Water System Resiliency, introduced by Senator Peter Wirth and co-sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Rep. Susan Herrera, would authorize the creation of regional utility authorities to empower local water agencies and strengthen water management across the state.

How Bad Is New Mexico’s Water Resilience Crisis?

  • New Mexico is the driest of the 50 states and is becoming more arid.
  • New Mexico will have 30% less surface water and aquifer recharge in the future. 
  • Water is life. Our being, our cultures, and our economy require water. 
  • Current uses of water cannot be sustained in most regions of New Mexico. 
  • New Mexico is dangerously close to violating the Rio Grande Compact due to depletion within the Middle Rio Grande of water that is legally apportioned for use below Elephant Butte Dam. 
  • Large areas of New Mexico have almost exhausted their groundwater and other areas are on that trajectory. 
  • In many areas of New Mexico where groundwater is the only water source, we don’t know how much groundwater remains after a century of pumping. 
  • New Mexico needs and demands more from its state water management agencies than the agencies have the capacity or structure to provide. 
  • Important statutory authorizations and policy direction of the Legislature cannot be implemented because the Legislature has not provided water agencies with the capacity required for implementation.
  • Agency productivity could be substantially improved by modernizing legacy business practices, legacy information systems, and paper-based processes and records.

New Mexico’s water management for the future requires new laws and policies. New Mexico’s water management agencies need the capacity to implement existing statutes and new ones. They need practical enforcement authority to stop illegal water use. They need to actively manage water deliveries to comply with Rio Grande Compact requirements. Agency staff could be much more productive if the agencies were reorganized with new statutory focus and investment in modern business practices and modern information systems.

How Can SB 1 Address These Problems?

SB 1 would authorize the formation and operation of regional water authorities, who would be legally empowered to manage regional water systems and identify and stop illegal water use. These authorities would enable regions to focus, modernize, and improve their management of local and regional water resources and to collaborate with other neighboring authorities in managing water use. These improvements are essential to reduce climate change water insecurity in most regions of New Mexico.

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