U.S. Water News Online
ALBUQUERQUE -- Two groups working on the water future of
the Middle Rio Grande Valley are considering everything from piping
in desalinated water to removing thirsty nonnative plants from the
The Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly, a nonprofit volunteer group,
and the Mid-Region Council of Governments are releasing a 389-page
preliminary water plan that covers Bernalillo, Sandoval and Valencia
counties. The plan has no overall cost estimate.
The region is depleting its water supply by about 18 billion
gallons a year, enough to fill a football field 11 miles deep,
according to the assembly.
``Everybody is critically dependent on water, and we have less
than we are accustomed to (using),'' said Bob Wessely, the assembly's
chairman. ``...We're draining our savings account.''
The plan will be submitted to the New Mexico Interstate Stream
Commission next month and eventually will become part of a statewide
plan. Public meetings are slated later this month.
Local governments will be responsible for carrying out the plan,
Wessely said. Recommendations aren't binding, even on governments
that accept the plan.
It recommends removing nonnative underbrush to make the bosque
look more like a mosaic of grasses and cottonwoods; importing
desalinated brackish water from the Tularosa Basin or elsewhere
beginning in 2020; and lining up to 150 miles of irrigation ditches
with concrete so more water reaches the fields.
In conservation measures, the plan recommends requiring low-flow
toilets and appliances in new buildings and retrofitting them on 80
percent of existing buildings. It also suggests mandating xeriscapes
at new construction and converting 30 percent of existing landscapes
The plan wants less water stored at Elephant Butte Reservoir at
Truth or Consequences in favor of storing more upstream, where less
water evaporates. It also recommends pumping surplus water into the
aquifer during wet years.
The conservation ideas came largely from public meetings over the
last six years. Technical experts reviewed how much water each
recommendation could save.
Some ideas aren't as far-fetched as they might sound, said
Lawrence Rael, executive director of the Council of Governments.
For example, importing desalinated water could become common in
arid states. He pointed out that natural gas already moves through
pipelines around the country.
``The technology for desalination continues to improve as time
goes by, becoming more and more cost-effective,'' Rael said.
The plan also makes forecasts that would affect water use. For
example, it predicts the amount of land irrigated for agriculture
will drop by about 30 percent over the next 50 years, Wessely said.
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