February 16th 2016 - Written by: Gwen Aldrich

BBER and other members of the New Mexico Universities Working Group on Water Supply Vulnerabilities authored a report on the effects of the recent and ongoing drought on NM’s Lower Rio Grande

Researchers at UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research are part of the New Mexico Universities Working Group on Water Supply Vulnerabilities that was funded by the State Legislature in 2014. The working group was tasked with assessing the current status of New Mexico’s water supply and demand; evaluating the long-term impacts of the current drought on surface water, groundwater, and economic activity; and determining key vulnerabilities and potential policy strategies for mitigating these vulnerabilities. As a first step the Working Group focused on the Lower Rio Grande, and in 2015 provided their final report to the Interim Committee on Water and Natural Resources.

Some of the key vulnerabilities identified in the report include:

  1. The Santa Teresa, NM area is likely to experience more business and population growth. Yet the current water supply is expected to meet the area’s needs for the next decade only.
  2. Continuing drought will create increasingly difficult conditions for agriculture. Although various strategies and technologies can be used increase agriculture’s resiliency to drought, all require additional expenses that can be particularly financially burdensome for the area’s small farms.

Policy recommendations include the following:

  1. Assess potential sources of additional water supply. The availability of additional freshwater is unlikely. Therefore a desalination plant should be given serious consideration.
  2. Implement policies to aid in the conversion of farmland from flood irrigation to more efficient irrigation methods. Develop partnerships between farmers and relevant agencies to plan and fund water conservation projects that address both delivery system efficiency and on-farm water conservation.

The full report can be accessed for free on the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources website: http://geoinfo.nmt.edu/publications/openfile/downloads/500-599/577/OFR577.pdf.

The Bureau of Business & Economic Research employs a diverse staff with a wide range of specializations and interests. The views and opinions expressed on this blog belong to the individual authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BBER or UNM.