New Mexico and water management issues

David S. Brookshire, Hoshin V. Gupta, Olen Paul Matthews

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The book consists of 14 chapters or gan ized in a specific sequence, and is designed to be broad enough to en com pass the major issues facing water management in New Mexico today, while weaving a coherent set of common threads that conveys an ac cur ate view of the overall pic ture. Specifically the chapter authors were asked to adhere to a specific structure, be forward looking, and to offer thoughts as to what changes should be made in order to enhance water management in New Mexico. Hence, the book starts with three chapters that provide the background for thinking about New Mexico’s water future. Chapter 2 discusses the extent to which water management can be improved by using some form of computer-based numerical modeling to augment the de cision making pro cess. The chapter makes the point that modeling provides a very im port ant mech an ism by which communication can be improved, critical as sumptions can be made more transparent, realism can be enhanced, and the de cision pro cess made more cred ible, legitimate and salient. Chapter 3 summar izes the surface and groundwater resources of the state of New Mexico and discusses the prin cipal water quality challenges. Chapter 4 reviews the salient features of the climate of New Mexico that pose challenges for the management of its surface water resources. Historical records indicate that New Mexico is extremely vulner able to hydrologic changes associated with a warmer climate, and that severe precipitation deficits can be expected in the future. Chapters 5 through 8 provide an overview of the legal and institutional setting in New Mexico. Chapter 5 discusses the his tor ical legacy of water rights in the state, and reviews the salient features that pose challenges for management of surface water. Chapter 6 discusses the his tor ical role of acequias in New Mexico and their future viabil ity. Chapter 7 examines water rights law and reallocation in New Mexico. It discusses pub lic rights im port ant to the allocation and reallocation process, and offers some thoughts on changes for the future. Chapter 8 discusses how shared governance of water operates in New Mexico. Many par ties have an inter est in how water is managed, creating a complex mix of rules within which management de cisions must be made. Chapters 9 and 10 discuss the role of eco nom ics in the reallocation, pricing and conservation of New Mexico’s water resources. Chapter 9 discusses the role water markets can play in dealing with the numerous challenges facing New Mexico. When designed prop erly markets can lead to a situ ation where all par ties that particip ate are better off, thereby providing flex ib il ity with minimal conflict. The key is to estab lish rules for the market that will achieve specific goals. Chapter 10 discusses the pricing and conservation of water in urban areas, and particularly the issues faced by New Mexico’s do mestic (pub lic and private) water utilities which supply treated water for do mestic, commercial and industrial purposes. These utilities are driven to achieve greater efficiency in urban water use-providing water to satisfy eco nomic demand/urban growth, while not excessively using resources needed to sustain river sys tems and maintain the longevity of groundwater aquifers. Chapters 11 through 13 deal with some specific issues facing the state. Chapter 11 discusses the growing prob lem arising from the fact that only minimal restrictions are currently placed on private wells used for do mestic purposes in New Mexico. While each well indi vidually may have a minor impact, the sheer number of such wells now leads to a signific ant combined impact. Chapter 12 discusses the impacts of endangered species protection on water management in New Mexico. The requirement to provide water for such protection has led to conflict with existing water uses or water rights holders, resulting in water management changes on major rivers in the state. Chapter 13 extends on the previous chapter to discuss the science and management needs related to ensuring long-termustain abil ity of New Mexico’s riparian eco sys tems. In the semi-arid hydro-climate charac ter istic of New Mexico, riparian eco sys tems act as valu able oases connected by tenuous strings of water both above and below the surface. Finally, Chapter 14 provides an overview of what is re com mended by the various chapter authors, challenges to change, and re com mendations for change. We call for significant institutional changes to be made in order to move to the future and beyond the status quo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWater Policy in New Mexico
Subtitle of host publicationAddressing the Challenge of an Uncertain Future
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781134282821
ISBN (Print)9781933115993
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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