U.S. Water News Online
SANTA FE -- The cost of needed water projects in New Mexico
approaches $4 billion, which is as much as the yearly budget for the
The New Mexico Finance Authority outlined the preliminary cost
estimates to an interim legislative committee, which is trying to
find a way to pay for the water problems confronting New Mexico.
``It's going to take a greater deal of leveraging to complete a
lot of these projects,'' said David Harris, executive director of the
He said the state must do a better of job of bringing together a
variety of funding sources -- state, local and federal -- to cover
the spiraling costs of water projects.
The finance authority is a quasi-public agency that issues bonds
and makes loans to provide low-cost financing for local and state
New Mexico needs at least $2.1 billion for community drinking
water systems and wastewater projects across the state in the next
five years, said Carlos Romero, director of intergovernmental
relations for NMFA.
Of that, water supply projects will cost about $988 million;
wastewater projects represent $837 million; storm and surface water
control, $257 million; and almost $25 million for water rights,
Many community water systems are small and operate in rural or
unincorporated areas. Lawmakers were told the state should consider
regional water systems to avoid duplication and help control costs.
Communities have ``medium term needs'' of about $375 million to
upgrade water systems to comply with new federal standards for
arsenic, Romero said.
Long-term projects to develop new supplies of water will cost at
least $1.5 billion and some of those will take more than a decade to
complete. Among the projects are the Navajo-Gallup water pipeline in
northwestern New Mexico, a proposed pipeline from Ute Lake to supply
water to communities in eastern New Mexico and work along the Rio
Grande corridor to help communities such as Taos, Espanola, Santa Fe
and Albuquerque that use water from the San Juan-Chama project.
Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, chairman of the Water and Natural
Resources Committee, said one of the panel's main assignments is to
find a stable source of revenues for water projects. The committee
will make recommendations to the full Legislature, which meets in
In 2001, the state created a water trust fund to help finance
projects. It was to operate in a fashion similar to New Mexico's
permanent funds. Investment earnings would accumulate in the trust
fund, which eventually would make annual distributions that would be
used for grants and loans for water projects.
However, the fund has no money. Two years ago, former Gov. Gary
Johnson vetoed $20 million that lawmakers had set aside for the fund.
This year, a measure was enacted to earmark 10 percent of the
yearly severance tax bond financing for water projects. That could
mean an average of about $10 million a year.
Harris said Gov. Bill Richardson would recommend next year that 10
percent of general obligation bond financing be directed for water
projects. Those bonds require voter approval. In 2002, voters
approved $13 million in bond financing for water rights purchases and
Lawrence Rael, director of the Mid Region Council of Governments
in Albuquerque, said New Mexicans would accept a permanent revenue
source for water projects if it's broad-based and equitable. He
outlined several options, ranging from a dedicated increase in the
gross receipts tax to a higher property tax levy to expand general
obligation bond financing.
Return to the
U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.