Portales residents voice water concerns on TV

By Mike Linn

PORTALES — Water may be a simple mixture of hydrogen and oxygen, but attaining the vital substance — at least for long-term use in eastern New Mexico — can be costly and complicated.
Such themes surfaced time and again during KENW-TV’s broadcast of “Just Add Water: Facing New Mexico’s Water Issues,” on Thursday night.
Following the 30-minute documentary, New Mexicans called in and peppered four water experts with concerns ranging from the extended use of water at dairies to the lack of water restrictions within municipalities.
The caller participation was so good, show producer and Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega decided to extend the hour-long broadcast an additional 30 minutes. Following the show, the panel answered questions from an additional eight callers. In all, 33 New Mexicans called in with questions.
Among the concerns for New Mexico include drought conditions that have plagued the state for the past five years. Eastern New Mexico’s weather cycle predicts another 25 years of sub-par precipitation before a 20-year spell of moisture ensues, according to Charlie Liles, chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.
“Research has a long way to go,” Liles said. “We need to get together to figure out how we take advantage of the wet years, how we deal with the dry years.”
New Mexico State Engineer John D’Antonio said the demand will grow for water in our region and emphasized the importance of financing the state’s water needs for future generations.
“There is no way any state in the west is going to decrease in population,” D’Antonio said. “I want my kids to live in New Mexico. I want my grandkids to live in New Mexico. I want there to be job opportunities.”
But how do community leaders support economic growth when that growth includes exceptional water use on dairies, Joe Mesquedo of Clovis asked.
Clovis Mayor David Lansford answered by reiterating the importance of agriculture to the community.
“We value our dairies,” Lansford said. “It brings tremendous economic value to our area. We hope, we ask and expect our neighbors and friends to be good stewards of the resource and manage that water effectively.”
Other callers from Roswell lambasted what they describe as wasted water flowing through residential streets and neighborhoods.
Unlike many cities in the east, water restrictions do not exist in Clovis and Portales.
However, community leaders said they expect residents to not waste what is becoming one of the region’s most valuable natural resource.