IMPROVING NEW MEXICO?S WATER MANAGEMENT
Our underlying premise is that water management in the state has made insufficient use of mechanismsthat would signal users about the truevalue of water. The first impediment is that water is often free to the user, or provided at prices that are inconsequential for users.
A water conservation charge should be levied on all surface and groundwater diversions. The revenues fromthis fee will bedesignated to purchase and lease water for environmental purposes, accelerate the adjudication process, and to assistwith payment for water conservation measures. This water conservation chargewill have the added benefit of reducing our consumption of water.
water pricing reform, water metering, controls on new wells, increasing the ability ofsellers to transfer conserved water, and creating protection for the ecology of streams and rivers
water administration does not acknowledge the public values (common goods) in New Mexico?s rivers and streams. Albuquerque?s Bosque, the trees and the river, provides a well known example of a resource that ?belongs? to everyone in the area, in the sense that it is a natural resource that defines and enriches the communit
indicates that the vast majority of water is used in agriculture, and that the state is dangerously dependent on groundwater pumping
New Mexico has five primary rivers. To a large extent the Canadian, Gila, Pecos, Rio Grande, and San Juan rivers
A characteristic of water that is often misunderstood is the difference between diversion and withdrawal or consumptive use. A user will divertwater out ofstreamand apply it to some use such as growing a crop. The crop actually evaporates less water than what is applied (the use of water by plants is called evapotranspiration ? a combination ofevaporation fromwet surfaces and transpiration by the plant). Water thatis evaporated orotherwise lost to the systemis the amount of consumptive use (consumptive use is also called withdrawal ordepletion). Wewill use consumptive use (CU) throughout the paper.The unused water or return flow seeps down into the groundwater, and because shallow aquifers and rivers are usually connected (conjunctive), the return flow will eventually makeit back tothe river. The return water then becomes available for downstreamdiversion and use. Diversion, evaporation and return flow occur for almost all uses except instreamflows. Municipal water has a return flow (usually about 50%) through the sewer system. For someuses, the diversion is not so obvious.
The distinction between diversion, evaporation and return flow is significant in that all affect the river in different ways. Diversion has an immediate effect of reducing surface flows but the extracted volume is partially replaced by return flow. It is often common to have more total diversions than native water in the river. Return flows are usually of higher salinity than the river so as water is diverted and returned repeatedly, salinity in the river increases.
people in the U.S. use a lot more water than is absolutely necessary
household uses water to maintain an attractive domestic environment in landscapes and lawns. All these uses of water are non-essential froma survival perspective but are greatly desired. Economists thus analyze water as an economic commodity for which there is a large urban demand.
The analysis here employs research on water done by Ari Michelsen, J. Thomas McGuckin and Donna Stumpf in the Effectiveness of Residential Water Conservation Price and Non-price Programs in Urban Areas in the Western U.S., American Water Works Association - Research Foundation, December 1998.
[data from] 1980 through mid-1995 was collected
Los Angeles and San Diego, California; Broomfield and Denver, Colorado; and Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, New Mexico
Water price has a significant and negative impact on water use, but water demand is very price inelastic
water utilities could double their water rates and expect, at a maximum, only a 30 percent decrease in water use during the peak [summer] season
Conservation programs work independently of a drought environment, such as California?s in the late 1980's and early 1990's and continue to work after the drought conditions have ceased.
Water use is strongly correlated with average monthly temperature and seasonal variation in temperature. Precipitationwas consistently insignificant in all models. All cities inthis analysis are semi-arid to arid inclimate and thus the ratio of evapotranspiration to precipitation is muchgreater than one. Landscape watering is necessary ifone wants to maintaintraditional residential lawns and trees. Random and infrequent rains do not change residential watering patterns to a significant degree.
The law of demand implies that people will use water upto a level where the value ofan additional unit equals the cost of purchase. In Albuquerque this is about $1.59 per 1000 gallons
farming incurs a majority of costs upfrontin the season. Once these expenses have occurred, the value of water is approximately the gross value of the crop minus harvest costs.
Intra-seasonal values of water vary froma low of $154 per aft to a high $450. Seasonal values range from$34 to $126. Long termvalue of water ranges from$0 to $54 on an annual basis. Using the long-termannual value as a basis for capitalized value, water right valuesrange from$0 (in that specific use) to $1,075. It should be noted that the values reported here are estimates of the value in use and do not represent actual water prices.
There is substantial evidence thatNew Mexicans greatly value natural rivers and riparian habitat. Several studies by Berrens et al. at the University of New Mexico, in which they surveyed New Mexican opinions about instreamwater, indicate a willingness to pay $80 annually per household to maintain minimum instreamflow and the riparian environment along the river bank of the major rivers of New Mexico.
The value of water to the New Mexico economy varies by use. Urban uses have long termannual values of $200 to over $4,000 per aft depending on the availability of supplies. Environmental values are $101 per aft. Agricultural values vary from$0 to $50 per aft
A farmer in the Middle Rio Grande values a water right used in agriculture at $1,250 per aft. Albuquerque would be willing to pay up to $4,800 per acre-foot.
The farmer would gain $2,750 in net incomeover what he or she makes using the water in farming. Note that the farmer does not have to quit farming; he or she could sell 25% of his water rights and go to more efficient irrigation and growing low water using crops. The point is that selling water right is his orher decision.
A farmer cannot easily sell a water right that has not been defined or adjudicated.
$20,000 per aft in legal and OSE hearing costs
The current situation of undefined water rights is costing New Mexicans an enormous price in flexibility to buy and sell water rights.
purchase senior water rights through a market exchange and no longer be junior. [seniority list]
Colorado-New Mexico-Texas compact
Compact obligations are a fact of water, - no different than nature is variable in its supply
majority of surface water users in New Mexicodonot have adjudicated water rights
OSE has estimated that there are twoto three times more claimsto water than what is actually available in the lower Rio Grande (below Elephant Butte Reservoir)
cannot afford to adjudicate at the pace we are currently preceding. Without a complete adjudication, the question of who gets what water in a draught becomes very murky
Intel, [uses lots of water, will move if not reliable]
With a better functioning water market, Intel would purchase sufficient senior water rights to keep going under all circumstances
Figure 3: The Rio Grande Compact Commission. Report of the Rio Grande Compact Commission, Years 1949 ? 2001. Santa Fe, NM. [pdf pg 33]
test of beneficial use is a stern master.It raises the bar on efficiencythat irrigation districts must achieve
MRGCD endangered species such as the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow.
adjudication. It is the cornerstone to solving our water crisis [?!]
mortgaged our future by taking our water fromlimited groundwater aquifers and fromthe very fragile riparian environment that surrounds our rivers
Groundwater accounts for 95% of the supply for public and domestic water use in the Rio Grande. This use of water is increasing. In the middle Rio Grande, groundwater diversion for public and domestic use grew at annual rate 3.0% between 1985 and 1995 (Wilson Brian ?Water Use in New Mexico in 1985?, NMOSE, Technical report 46.
New Mexico can develop a no growth policy, but our economy would decline. There would be no new investment. Maybe for retired or wealthy people this would be acceptable, but for everyone else, salaries woulddecrease and unemployment increase [disagree]
Since most aquifers are finite, [>implying]
OSE sets the amount of pumping sothat the aquifer has as least a 40-year life. This is very important point. In New Mexico, there is no sustainable yield of an aquifer that is not conjunctive to surface flows
Long-termwater past 40 years is not guaranteed
Either a society learns to adopt a sustainable resource base or it willbecome, as in many areas of the west associated with mining, a ghost town.
Many aquifers are connected to a river in that there is flow between the river and the aquifer. Pumping out of the aquifercreates a deficit that the river will eventually recharge.
the rechargeprocess may take decades. But the net effect is that the river is drawn down as it replenishes the depleted aquifers. This affects downstream surface users and compact obligations
State of New Mexico has been spending millions ofdollars in buying or leasing water to meet Compact obligations to Texas caused by excessive groundwater pumping. In essence the state ofNew Mexico is buying out Pecos valley agriculture to ship water to Texas rather than enforcing prior appropriation.
A Lower Pecos Valley Regional Water Plan approved by the NM Interstate Streams Commission in 2002 has an innovativemethod to meet compact obligations. Junior groundwater irrigators in a water short year would pump out of the aquifer directly into the river enough water to meet compact obligations.
builds up salts in the root zone
leaching fractions,a technique of putting onmore water thatthe cropuses and leaching the salt down below the rootzone, will control salt build up. Eventually the salty component of the leaching fraction enters the shallow aquifer.Using a series of drainage ditches, the salty return flow eventually makes it back to the river. This leaching and return flow process has the advantage that it maintains crop production, but with repeated diversions and return flows, salinity (often referred to as TDS) builds up in the river. The Rio Grande enters the state with very low TDS (less than 250 ppm)but exits the state with high TDS levels above 1000 ppm.
The real loser in our water managementpolicies are our rivers and riparian environment because they lack any legal protection under state law.
Albuquerque Bosque, approximately 37,000 acres of riparian habitat,
A curious footnote is that the state engineerdoes not consider the forest a beneficial use,but MRGCD officials acknowledge that the trees provide a braking or energy absorbing cushion against flood waters that protects the levies from deterioration
TomTurney, the former State Engineer, prior to leaving office in January 2003
Originally, cottonwood was the dominant plant species, but invader species of salt cedar and Russian Olive have replaced large sections. One interesting note is thatthe consumptive water use of cottonwood is less than salt cedar, so simply removing saltcedar and allowing cottonwoods to return would decrease water use by the Bosque and add water to the streamchannel. If the Bosque were managed to maintain the original cottonwood forest, the Bosque would have a consumptive use of 136,000 aft. But consider the OSE. This water use is not currently defined as beneficial use. With incomplete adjudication inthe Rio Grande and during periods of drought, the office must somehow allocate water and meet Compact obligations. During a period of sustained drought, when claimants to available water are pitted against each other,it would be extremely temping to takethe water fromthe trees by cutting themdown. There is no protection against this and it has already occurred along the reach of the Rio Grande fromElephant Butte Damto the Texas border and over on the Pecos River.
For example, drip irrigation conserves water relative to traditional flood or furrow techniques (Drip irrigation reduces the amount of diversion and farmdelivery, but the technology does not reduce the consumptive water use ofthe crop). Drip irrigation is very capital intensive and expensive. It makes sense for only a very few high valued crops. For most farmers, drip irrigation would be an investment disaster. Another dubious programis the conversion of evaporative to central air cooling. New Mexico?s low humidity and dry climate makes evaporative cooling (also known asswamp coolers) a very low costsource of air conditioning. Evaporative cooling does require somewater, but sometimes perspective is lost. Central air conditioning requires considerable amounts of expensive electricity (electrical utilities are generally for this program). Central air conditioning costs can be several hundred dollars a month comparedto the evaporative cooling bill that is generally much less than a hundred. The conversion to central air isa conservation programthat asks the consumerto incur hundreds of dollars of electrical bills (say $500 per summer) to save a few thousands gallonsof water. Consider a summer savings of 3,000 gallons - in Albuquerque, this is about $6 of water. The conversion to central air costs $500 to save $6 ? this does not make economic sense.
voluntary landscape programs, better residential irrigation oflawns and landscapes, reduced water using appliances. With incentive packages, these conservation programs can make economic sense. Residential water programs can reduce residential water use by 10 to 15% (ibid, Michelson et al.)
There are improved irrigation incentive programs? such as low cost loans (adopted in the Central value of California) ? that can induce farmers to implement more conserving irrigation. Here however, economics is underlying incentive. A farmer will adopt water conservation if it makes economic sense.
water providers and water utilities. By reducing losses and leakages, water providers can lower water diversions by as much as 20%. Programssuch as ditch lining and water pipe rehabilitation are expensive and these programsneed federal and state assistance to work.
Metering of water, Metering provides quantitative metrics, as much as 20 percent in somestudies
1. NM ?no charge? policy for water ignores the true costs of managing, allocating and supplying water, our most important resource. No other resource in the State is utilized/extracted without somefees.
2. We do not value what wereceive for free.The low cost ofwater provides little incentive to conserve. A user fee on water provides incentive to conserve.
easiestsolution is to cut down the trees,destroy the habitat and channel the rivers
Rio Grande south of Elephant Butte to the Texas border is almost completely devoid of original Bosque habitat. The Pecos is likewise completely devoid of trees except for stands of invasive salt cedar
There will benothing natural about the rivers; they will be lined ditches devoid of trees - running the reach of the state. We also predict that if we do deplete our rivers of all natural riparian habitats, New Mexico will decline economically. Our natural environment is one ofour major selling points
To restore the Bosque to a sustainable level of health would require more than just water. Invader species must be reduced and cottonwood trees re-established. Areas of undergrowth (basically a dumping area) should be cleared. Trails should be maintained. Forest management for fire protection should be actively engaged.