SANTA FE, NM. - In light of New Mexico's unprecedented water challenges, lawmakers are considering a bill to fully fund the Strategic Water Reserve, a management tool deemed essential for the state's water future. With climate change causing changes in weather patterns and the Rio Grande flowing less, water management tools like the Reserve are more critical than ever.
The Strategic Water Reserve program allows the state to purchase or lease water rights from voluntary sellers or lessees to comply with water agreements outlined in Interstate Stream Compacts or to benefit endangered species. However, the Reserve's ineffectiveness has been limited by inconsistent funding since its inception in 2005.
Tricia Snyder, a senior water policy analyst for New Mexico Wild, argued that the state needs to put $25 million into the Reserve to make it effective. According to Snyder, before a seller comes forward, they must know that the state has the money to complete the transaction.
Unless they know that the state has the money to complete the transaction, people are not going to be willing to come to the table to even begin negotiations on a sale or a lease," Snyder stated.
The Reserve's inconsistent funding has limited its effectiveness, and with the changing weather patterns and the projected growth in New Mexico's population, the Reserve needs to be funded immediately.
If we're going to meet our water challenges that we know are coming, and that are already here, it's really critical that we have these tools at our disposal," Snyder emphasized. "New Mexico's future is hotter and dryer."
Fortunately, the Strategic Water Reserve could be financed with the state's record revenue surplus, primarily from oil and gas operations. In addition, a poll conducted in 2021 by Middle Rio Grande Advocates found that two-thirds of voters concur or strongly concur that New Mexico officials must modernize and allocate more funds to manage water supply and quality.
Water management tools like the Reserve are critical for New Mexico's water future and other states that rely on the Rio Grande for water. The river flows through Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico, and the water management decisions made in one state can significantly impact others.
In addition to funding the Strategic Water Reserve, lawmakers in New Mexico are also considering other measures to address the state's water challenges. For example, some legislators call for increased funding for conservation programs, while others propose constructing new reservoirs and expanding existing ones.
As the state continues to grapple with its water challenges, it is clear that funding for programs like the Strategic Water Reserve is essential. With climate change causing more frequent and severe droughts and water shortages, the need for effective water management tools has never been greater.