Midway Through Session, Legislature Facing Up To Drought

Feb 12, 2013

Disappearing Rio Grande at San Marcial
Credit USGS

New Mexico lawmakers say all options need to be considered as the state grapples with a persistent drought, dwindling water supplies and legal pressure from neighboring Texas.

Numerous bills have been introduced, from revamping the state's water plan to boosting the number of judges who handle water rights and spending millions of dollars on infrastructure.

Senate Conservation Commission Chairman Peter Wirth says the bills don't provide a "silver bullet" but mark the start of an important discussion on the state's future.

And unlike many hot-button issues, the recognition of the drought's severity as well as other water issues - and particularly the need to act soon - is bi-partisan.

Republican Senator Carroll Leavell is proposing the state invest $2.5 million to mitigate the damage caused by the drought.

Another bill calls for studying supply and demand issues along with the economic consequences of having such a limited water supply.

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Democrat John Arthur Smith of Deming, warned Tuesday that New Mexico will not be able to attract new businesses or grow the ones it has if the state has no water.