By Darrell Todd Maurina: CNJ Staff Writer
The Ute Water project wasn’t the only local water issue to come before last week’s meeting of a legislative interim committee.
On Thursday morning, two state representatives spoke to the Water and Natural Resources Committee at Clovis Community College to explain the concerns of local residents over the consequences of unregulated water usage by local farmers. They also addressed farmers’ concerns about the consequences if the state starts to regulate their water use.
The committee voted to ask the state engineer to attend the committee’s next meeting on Aug. 10-11 in Albuquerque to answer questions about water use in Curry and Roosevelt counties.
Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, and Rep. Earlene Roberts, R-Lovington, said they hear from their constituents regularly, both those who support and those who oppose the lack of regulations on water use, and some of those citizens came to the meeting to express their own concerns.
“One of the problems we have is with all the dairies coming in, there is an increasing need for crops to feed the cattle,” said Clovis resident Don Clifton.
Crook said eastern New Mexico property once used as grassland is now being purchased and converted to crops, which are irrigated from an unregulated basin.
Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, cautioned that the state needs to move carefully before imposing water use regulations.
“I live in an unregulated basin in Union County, there aren’t many of them in the state, but there was nearly an armed revolt when we started talking about declaring it to be a regulated basin,” Moore said.
Roberts said she understands the concerns.
“My husband told me, ‘I don’t want anyone telling me how much water I can pump for my cows,’ and I started laughing hysterically because we’ve argued about that before,” Roberts said.
Others said the main problem in eastern New Mexico is that nobody knows how much water exists underground and therefore water planners have no data on which to base their opinions.
“There is a massive amount of ignorance about this subject,” said Roosevelt County resident Mills Bickley. “We don’t know how this water gets here, we believe it is a mined resource and not a renewable resource, but we need to find some answers before we start making decisions.”