Water conservation effort draws concern

By Jack King

Officials of Clovis’ water policy advisory board and the Curry County Commission are still working out compromise language for a resolution encouraging and supporting water conservation, advisory board Chairman Randy Crowder said Wednesday.
The City Commission adopted an emergency drought management plan, with water conservation plans and regulations, on Nov. 6. Crowder has said the board wants local governmental entities to adopt conservation plans to “lead by example.”
But Crowder’s request that county commissioners add their signatures to a resolution encouraging and supporting water conservation ran into a road block at a commission meeting Feb. 4. County Commissioner Albin Smith and County Attorney Steven Doerr said they want to be sure the resolution contained no language that could be interpreted as agreeing to restrictions on agricultural producers’ use of their water rights.
“They are trying to err on the side of caution regarding what Santa Fe will do,” Crowder said.
The State Legislature is considering some bills that would give the State Engineer the power to declare an area a “critical management area” regarding water use. This would allow it to impose conservation measures, including the right to deny domestic well permits, Crowder said.
“Curry County would have qualified as a critical management area last year,” he said.
Crowder said the three passages in the proposed resolution Smith has said he objects to are:
“Whereas; we see the need to encourage all users of the Ogallala Aquifer to increase their efforts in conserving water, by implementing conservation measures in their homes, schools, and places of business;
“Whereas; we encourage education of our area residents to conserve water and will support measures to this end, including, but not limited to educational programs in our schools, public notices and advertising;
“Whereas; we are committed to implementing water conservaton measures in our community in order to conserve, our most valuable resource.”
Smith said Wednesday he could not offer many examples of language in the resolution he objects to, but added, “some of the ‘whereas’s’ were too open-ended for me.”
“In the ‘whereas’ where it says ‘we encourage education of our area residents to conserve water and will support measures to this end, including, but not limited to educational programs,’ if you leave that ‘not limited to,’ then it’s open to interpretation,” he said.
But, Smith added, he will work to find language for the resolution that the city, county and all entities can agree on.
“I don’t want (the resolution) to be an issue. I don’t want agriculture to be made the bad guy in this. I’m not looking for an exemption for agriculture, but I don’t want agriculture to be penalized either,” he said.
“I believe, as a dairy farmer, that farmers are going to do what they can to preserve their natural resource — even more than someone who does not make his living off agriculture. Farmers are not reckless with water,” he said.