NM 50-year water plan 'not all doom and gloom'

·2 min read

Jun. 24—New Mexico is nearing the finish line on a 50-year water plan aimed at helping the state prepare for climate change impacts on future water supplies.

The plan's leap-ahead analysis shows that New Mexico's annual average statewide temperatures could rise between 5 and 7 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 50 years if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

That could create hotter droughts, lower streamflow and aquifer recharge, and decreasing snowpack.

However, the document is "not all doom and gloom," said Andrew Erdmann, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission water planning program manager.

"We're trying to highlight examples of places where there's optimism and reason to be hopeful that we're adapting effectively to the changes expected," Erdmann said.

The state expects to release a draft for public comment in July.

A plan could be finalized in August or September.

The 50-year plan will recommend how communities can better use and conserve scarce water supplies.

Phoebe Suina, an Interstate Stream commissioner and hydrologist from San Felipe and Cochiti pueblos, said the plan will be more effective because of tribal input.

The ISC team is working with the Indian Affairs Department to include water plan recommendations from Indigenous communities.

"Each tribe is unique," Suina said "But having sat in on some of those meetings, that engagement is so important ... especially because some of those entities don't have adjudicated water rights yet."

Alternative water sources could help communities adapt to diminishing river flows and groundwater supplies.

Those alternatives include treating brackish water, drilling deep wells, treating oilfield wastewater, cloud seeding and rainwater collection systems.

Infrastructure improvements will likely also be a major focus of the plan.

"As things become more dramatic, and there's an exacerbated drought and flooding risk, the (infrastructure) needs are essentially greater to maintain the same level of comfort and access to backup water that we have now," Erdmann said.