Continuing an Equestrian Legacy Community Bulletin Board General Discussion Greenspace Management — managing weeds, improving habitat Reply To: Greenspace Management — managing weeds, improving habitat

Karla Lauritsen

Set out your lawn chair and enjoy being with your equines as they graze on belly high grasses and weeds at the Stable. At our fourth Wine and Weeds Walk our guest speaker was Kelly Brook Smith, Barn 24, who is managing attorney for Northern NM and Pecos Adjudication Bureaus, Office of the State Engineer. Kelly’s presentation focused on “Water Rights in NM: Why Should I Care?”

Conservation of water is part of everyday life at Eldorado. Residents consume an average of only 69 gallons per capita per day (GPCD), all drawn from our local aquifer. Total withdrawals in NM, from ground and surface waters, totaled 3,114,255 acre feet in 2015. To provide perspective, Kelly quized us on how many gallons are in one acre foot of water: 325, 851 gallons. That’s a lot of one gallon water jugs!

Through maps, charts and stories, Kelly continued, presenting numerous topics, including the extent of severe to exceptional drought in NM (on a scale of 0-4, NM is D2-D4); identifying which NM counties are dependent on surface and/or ground water; the Colorado River diversion, from its tributary San Juan River, into the Rio Grande, via its tributary Rio ChamaRiver; and how water is used in NM.

Under water rights in the West, all beneficial uses are equal. In NM, water is used for public water supply, 9.12%; self-supplied domestic, 0.90%; irrigated agriculture, 76.3%; livestock, 1.16%; commercial 1.85%; industrial 0.28%; mining 1.36%; power 1.62%; and evaporation from reservoirs, 7.42% (2015 numbers). Occassionally, beneficial use becomes exploitation, such as a case that Kelly has worked on, where a public ground water supply was being sold for commercial use, creating a public water deficit, with no apparent alternative source for fulfilling public demand for water.

In our water region–the Rio Grande River Basin–equitable apportionment of water has been subject to international, federal, and interstate negotiation and litigation. Federal agencies have built many NM reservoirs, authorizing its first, Elephant Butte Reservoir in 1905, to help fulfill the 1906 Mexican Treaty. NM annual flow obligations to Texas and Mexico are set by flow at the Otowi gauge (near Otowi bridge). Deliveries are measured at a gauge below the Elephant Butte Reservoir dam. This reservoir reached a record low this year, becoming only 3% full. Currently NM has a 43 billion gallon defiict to downstream users under the 1939 Rio Grande Compact. Texas is pursuing litigation over water deliveries from NM in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thank you, Kelly, for being a front line defender of water rights in NM. Many of our hay growers in NM, CO, and AZ continue to be impacted by this extended drought, experiencing water shortages for irrigation. Monsoon rains this summer have provided some relief, including boosting the amount of water available for Compact delivery.

I also thank Liz Mathews for creating the promotional flier; Amelia Adair for providing refreshments, emailing the flier to our members, and providing general encouragement; and Kelly Brook Smith for being our master laminator of fliers. Many thanks also extend to Kelly’s family for their support: her spouse Jason Smith and their daughters Brooke and Kate.