2015-2016

CVNM Conservation Scorecard – Conservation Voters New Mexico

Water
Water Votes ↓

Water

In the desert, more than most places, we are constantly reminded that without a clean, sustainable supply of water, we couldn’t survive. The challenge of meeting the growing demands for water with the same limited supply, and how we meet that challenge, is likely to define the future of our Land of Enchantment.

Most New Mexican cities and towns have barely scratched the surface of water conservation efforts but, even if they had, efficiency alone might not prevent the consequences of too much demand for not enough water. Those consequences include:

  • Intensifying pressure to transfer water from farms, ranches and smaller communities to thirsty, growing cities, thereby draining the lifeblood from our rural areas;
  • Escalating legal costs as we engage in expensive and risky litigation with neighboring states; and
  • Diminishing river flows, deteriorating streamside habitats, and more fish and wildlife in danger of extinction.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but all of these have occurred in the past, are still happening now, and will inevitably continue in the future. Water policy is extremely complicated, and the complexity is exacerbated by the conflicts and emotion that get tangled up in almost every policy discussion.

So, what can we do?

An excellent primer on New Mexico’s water challenges and the available solutions is “Taking Charge of Our Water Destiny,” which you can download here. Although the report is now over a decade old, we have made such little progress that we still face the same problems. But this also means many of the same solutions are still available to us.

Examples of actions that promote healthy rivers and a clean, sustainable supply of water for New Mexicans: 

In 2010, after more than two years of public process and hearings, the state Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) officially designated about 700 miles of perennial rivers and streams, 29 lakes and more than 4,900 acres of wetlands in federal wilderness areas as “Outstanding National Resource Waters.” The designation means that these critical water sources will receive the highest level of protection from activities that would degrade water quality.

In 2008, the Richardson administration adopted the “pit rule” for the oil and gas industry, without a doubt one of the administration’s more contentious actions. In adopting the rule, the Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) set standards for the treatment and disposal of waste from oil and gas operations. The rule has been remarkably effective. In the fifteen years prior to the pit rule’s adoption, industry self-reported 421 cases of groundwater contamination caused by oil and gas waste disposal pits, which account for more than half of all cases of groundwater contamination reported by the industry. Since adoption of the pit rule, there has not been a single reported case of groundwater contamination from an oil or gas waste pit. However, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) and the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico (IPANM), both representing industry, requested revisions to gut the rule from the OCC. The commission held hearings to consider those requests in May and June of 2012. Unfortunately, in 2013, the commission adopted a new rule that rolled back all of the protections that existed in the pit rule — jeopardizing our water resources for the foreseeable future.

Example of action that threatens our rivers and water resources: 

In the heart of the Gila Wilderness — America’s first designated wilderness — the last free-flowing river in our state is threatened. The Gila River supports habitat for countless fish and wildlife. Anglers, rafters, birders, hikers, residents and tourists of all stripes treasure the Gila River. But, some parties are making a strong push to build a dam or “diversion project” that would impair the flow of the river, threaten fish and wildlife, and cost taxpayers a fortune for an unnecessary, wasteful and harmful project — a boondoggle at best.

Related Votes

Priority # Name Sponsor(s) Issue(s) CVNM Postion Year Legislative Link Outcome CVNM Sort CVNM Sort #
SB 479 Adequate Subdivision Water Supplies Support 2013 SB 479 on nmlegis.gov SB 479 passed the Senate (35-4), passed the House (55-13), and was signed by the Governor on April 4, 2013. 50 479
PR SB 163 Amendment to Change Board & Commission Sunset Dates , Oppose 2013 SB 163 on nmlegis.gov The House floor amendment (sponsored by Rep. Gentry) was tabled (defeated) 33-30, and the Senate floor amendment (sponsored by Sen. Griego) was defeated 18-23. 50 163
PR HB 297 Blanket Plugging Financial Assurance Increase , Oppose 2011 HB 297 on nmlegis.gov HB 297 died in Senate Conservation Committee. 0 297
HB 74 Conservancy District Absentee Ballots , , Support 2012 HB 74 on nmlegis.gov HB 47 passed both the House (63-2) and the Senate (36-0) and was signed by the Governor on March 5, 2012. 0 74
SB 394 Conserved Water Put to Beneficial Use Oppose 2011 SB 394 on nmlegis.gov SB 394 died on the Senate floor (19-20). 50 394
PR HB 458 Consolidated Environmental Review Act , , , , , Support 2013 HB 458 on nmlegis.gov HB 458 died in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 0 458
HB 111 Crop Dusting Tanks as Above Ground Storage Oppose 2016 HB 111 on nmlegis.gov HB 111 died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 0 111
PR HB 422/SB 421 Cultural Property Registration & Acquisition , Oppose 2011 HB 422/SB 421 on nmlegis.gov HB 422 died in House Judiciary Committee; SB 421 died in Senate Judiciary Committee. 0 422
PR HB 429 Environmental Private Right of Action , , , Support 2013 HB 429 on nmlegis.gov HB 429 died on the House floor (30-36). 0 429
SB 248 Fund Grant County Water Supply From NM Unit Support 2016 SB 248 on nmlegis.gov SB 248 died in the Senate Finance Committee. 50 248
PR HJR 3 Legislative Nullification of Rules Andy Nuñez , , , , Oppose 2011 HJR 3 on nmlegis.gov HJR 3 died in House Judiciary Committee. 40 3
SB 455 New Mexico Unit Reports to Legislature Support 2015 SB 455 on nmlegis.gov The Conservation Committee Substitute for SB 455 died in Senate Judiciary Committee. 50 455
PR HB 652/SB 194 No Agriculture as a Nuisance , , Oppose 2013 HB 652/SB 194 on nmlegis.gov HB 652 died in the House Judiciary Committee. SB 194 died on the Senate floor calendar. 0 652
PR HB 286 Oil & Gas Financial Assurance , Support 2013 HB 286 on nmlegis.gov HB 286 died on the House floor (32-36). 0 286
PR HB 259 Recover Damages for Natural Resource Injuries , , Support 2013 HB 259 on nmlegis.gov HB 259 died in the House Energy & Natural Resources Committee. 0 259
SB 480 Subdivision Water Permits Support 2013 SB 480 on nmlegis.gov SB 480 passed the Senate (30-10), passed the House (41-25), and was signed by the Governor on April 5, 2013. 50 480
SB 89 Unit Fund for Certain Water Supply Needs Support 2014 SB 89 on nmlegis.gov SB 89 was defeated in the Senate Conservation Committee. 50 89
PR HB 225 Water Quality Control Act Revisions , Oppose 2011 HB 225 on nmlegis.gov HB 225 died in House Energy & Natural Resources Committee. 0 225
HB 87 Water Quality Control Commission Meetings Oppose 2015 HB 87 on nmlegis.gov HB 87 passed the House (43-21) and died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 0 87
PR SB 193 Water Quality Control Commissioners , Oppose 2013 SB 193 on nmlegis.gov SB 193 died in the Senate Rules Committee. 50 193