Report urges protecting water rights, conservation

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Nine strategies for conserving water in arid Northeast New Mexico are evaluated in a preliminary water plan recently released by a water resources and environmental consulting firm.

Municipal conservation, agricultural conservation, groundwater management, rangeland conservation and watershed management, water rights protection, Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System, planning for growth, and dam construction are each evaluated in the preliminary Northeast New Mexico Regional Water Plan, issued by Daniel B. Stephens and Associates.

“Agricultural conservation,” the report reads, “probably represents the greatest opportunity for reducing demand and delaying depletion of aquifers.”

The report also recommends conservation activities for the municipal sector. For the city of Clovis, it recommends four conservation avenues:

• Completing the wastewater reuse project

• Implementing water conservation projects and enforcing existing water conservation ordinances

• Completing a water system audit

• Providing Xeriscape incentives and graywater and/or rainwater systems in all new development

Clovis Mayor David Lansford said the report will be used as a tool by city planners.

“I think,” he said, “the city will use it as a template for water-related issues.”

“By and large, it is a good plan,” Lansford said.
The report also underscores the importance of protecting water rights in the region.

“Due to the decreasing availability of groundwater, protecting the existing water rights and preventing out-of-region transfers are extremely important to the Northeast region,” the report reads.

Any large-scale transfers out of the Northeast Region are “strongly opposed” by the steering committee that commissioned the report. That committee consists of representatives from counties, municipalities, agricultural sectors and other arenas, according to the report.

The Northeast New Mexico water planning region includes Union, Harding, Quay, Curry and Roosevelt Counties, and is one of 16 planning regions in the state. Each region must develop a regional water plan in accordance with state mandates.

The report is the culmination of a series of public meetings held throughout the region and more than two years of research, according to Clovis officials.

“It analyzes how much water is available in our region, how we are going to utilize it, capture it and conserve it,” Clovis Commissioner Randy Crowder said.

In the next phase of the water plan project, the steering committee will identify priority water use and conservation strategies for the region.

Within 40 years, the primary source of water for much of the region, the Ogallala Aquifer, will be depleted, the report projects, citing numerous studies. Developing water use alternatives is of utmost importance to the bulk of the counties in the region, it states.

“The citizens of eastern New Mexico need to recognize that planning for future water availability is paramount over virtually everything else,” Lansford said.

The report is available for public viewing at the Clovis-Carver Public Library. Also, excerpts from the report are available online at www.dbstephens.com.