“Water is crucial to our economy and to our way of life,” said Udall. “Unfortunately, New Mexico communities, farms and industry are not getting the water they need to thrive due to drought and infrastructure issues. This is a shared problem, and I’m proud to be co-hosting this policy conference to collaborate on shared solutions.” While much attention has been paid to the serious short-term drought situation facing farmers in the American Midwest, this annual conference will address issues of water scarcity in New Mexico, as the state continues to be immersed in the worst two-year drought period in decades.
“The scarcity of water is a concern we all share in New Mexico, and it is an area of particular focus for researchers here at New Mexico State University,” Couture said. “I am pleased to welcome the participants to campus, and I look forward to the important discussions the conference will generate surrounding these critical challenges.” The formal program will begin at 8:30 a.m. with remarks from NM WRRI Interim Director Sam Fernald, President Couture, and Senator Udall.
The conference will emphasize the relationship among agricultural, urban, and rural water users in the context of both current demands and projected future needs. Other topics include the current state water budget, deteriorating infrastructure, water markets and rights, basin hydrology, watershed restoration, floodwater capture, and salinity control. Farmers, ranchers and the general public, as well as academic experts, private water agencies and environmental organizations are invited to hear the presentations and take part in the discussions. Senator Udall will moderate a discussion with retired state officials who will provide their perspectives on the state’s pressing water issues as viewed from their experience.
The conference will also employ an “open forum” where short presentations by panelists will be followed by questions from the moderator and audience members. This format will allow more citizen input and dialogue between attendees and the presenters. The program will also include Mike Connor, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation and a Las Cruces native who attended NMSU, and an update by recently appointed New Mexico State Engineer Scott Verhines. The conference will conclude with a 5 p.m. reception, presentations of research posters by students and other researchers, and exhibits from organizations and agencies involved in water issues. Following the conference, organizers will meet to evaluate and compile policy recommendations made throughout the day. A Conference Report will then be disseminated among local and state and federal legislators.
Those interested in attending should register online at http://2012.wrri.nmsu.edu/register. The regular registration fee is $25 and includes a luncheon; students with I.D. are free. Sponsors include NM WRRI, NMSU, the Office of Senator Tom Udall, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Elephant Butte Irrigation District, Sandia National Laboratories, the Rio Grande Basin Initiative, and the McElyea Foundation. For more information, visit the conference website at http://2012.wrri.nmsu.edu/ or call the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute at 575-646-4337.