Officials hope water conservation plan would help extend resource

By Vanessa Kahin
Staff writer

Those behind a water conservation initiative that carries a potential $20 million price tag say they hope to prolong the availability of the precious resource until the Ute pipeline project is complete.

Clovis Mayor David Lansford, along with local agriculture consultant Blake Prather, have developed the Llano Estacado Water Conservation Initiative.

Prather also helped in the recent purchase by the city of water rights from farmer J.L. Wall. Prather said Wall indicated a willingness to sell; and it was Prather who approached Lansford with the idea.

The conservation initiative is meant to help the interim pipeline project — which would provide groundwater to the area until the Ute project is complete — actually have groundwater to provide.

The interim pipeline project is 10 years away, Lansford said.

“In 10 years, though, the amount of water will be significantly less if we don’t convert to dryland farming,” Lansford said.

The Llano Estacado conservation plan calls for incentives for farmers to switch from irrigation to dryland farming, which relies on rainfall to water crops.

Called a “targeted conservation plan” by Lansford, the plan is to focus on those who farm land just north and northwest of Cannon Air Force Base, where the aquifer is believed to be deeper than in other areas of Curry County.

Another aspect of the conservation initiative calls for playa lake management to give playas, which replenish the aquifer, a greater opportunity to do so. Playa water quality and quantity is to be increased through vegetation methods and sediment removal.

Lansford said a preliminary application was submitted this month to the USDA by the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts.

The NMACD is the fiscal agent for the grant application, Lansford said.

The request is for a federal grant in the amount of $20 million over the course of five years to help pay farmers to switch to dryland farming and to help support the playas, Lansford said.

Should the preliminary application be approved, the next step would be to hold public meetings and gather feedback about the project from farmers. The final application would be due Sept. 15, Lansford said.