Water, a necessity for life. Some times and places have too much, like from the recent Hurricane Ian. I used to live in Orlando, Florida and backed up to one of the many ponds that dotted the area. While we did occasionally get an alligator from a bigger lake, the recent videos of alligators swimming in the STREETS gave me pause.
Notwithstanding the drip, drip, drip from today’s very new leak in my ceiling during a wet Balloon Fiesta day, New Mexico has the opposite problem. I’m in the city limits, but have a well and have heard stories of wells drying up around the state. I have a mix of neighbors around me on city water or well.
Always seeking to educate myself on issues concerning my neighbors, I recently met with Norm Gaume, retired water resources engineer, manager, and planner, and former Director of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (1997- 2002). He educated me on the current water crisis and, more practically, on some legislative solutions. Solutions! As an engineer, I am trained to SOLVE problems. He is now part of the (https://mrgwateradvocates.org/ ) Middle Rio Grande Water Advocates trying to help push our state to face the situation in a comprehensive and rational manner.
Of course my other big takeaway from his explanation of the crisis was the very real tie of the size of the water problem to how we address climate change and future carbon emissions.
The following submitted Letter to the Editor is from Stefi Weisburd, Applied Physics, Stanford Univ. and environmentalist. She moved from the NE heights to Tijeras and now lives among dying trees and a dropping well level.
It was refreshing to see the Journal’s Editorial Board recognize the leaders who are confronting our worsening water shortages as well as the Rio Grande Compact’s looming default (Bob Wessely’s editorial).
Taxpayers have already poured $65 million into litigating the Compact. That’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the billions we are spending on water adjudication and projects to squeeze the most out of our dwindling water supplies. We are also giving farmers millions to fallow fields and in crop insurance payouts for drought and weather extremes, and millions more to restore watersheds devastated by climate-intensified fires.
Our antiquated water laws, designed for flush years and smaller populations, are one problem.
But the larger elephant in the room is the underlying cause of water scarcity. We can keep spending to adapt to climate change, but even record amounts of state revenue from the fossil fuel industry will not cover the escalating bills from fires, floods and ruined crops, in addition to higher insurance premiums and escalating health consequences of air pollution, smoke, pollen, and heat. And what price can be put on forest ecosystems and the traditional life they support?
Another editorial by State Rep. Bill Rehm, retired deputy sheriff, suggested piping water here from the Mississippi. That will make economic sense when water costs the same as piped oil and natural gas. Are you ready to pay $4 a gallon for water at the pump or faucet? Maybe that’s why the industry is donating to his campaign?
Mitigating climate change NOW costs less in both dollars and loss of livelihood and land. That means curbing the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, both of which are the source of greenhouse gasses that elevate our temperatures to increasingly ruinous levels. As the state 50-Year Water Plan makes clear, as long as climate change pushes temperature higher, we will have worsening water shortages even if our rainfall stays the same.
In this election season we should ask every candidate: will you support real climate solutions that will reverse water shortages OR will you protect the industry that is the underlying cause of our growing water emergency?