Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Grass is Greener

Yesterday I attended a luncheon round table at the McCune Foundation on the subject of water law and policy in New Mexico. I opined that there is little infrastructure built around protecting water when you are up against the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the Farm and Livestock Bureau, the Cattle Growers Association, the Mining Association, Real Estate developers and Contractors. The agricultural interests are getting easier to work with, but still the odds are against seeing water in rivers as a beneficial use of that water. New Mexico is pretty much the only western state behind the times on this concept.

Then we read in a Pew Research Survey today that most Americans would much rather live in western rural areas and cities than anywhere else. Yes some like the South too.

That makes it even more important to come up with a way of seeing water as a resource to be protected rather than just a commodity for development. I argue that the best way to do this is by hiring lawyers and suing to protect long term health of watersheds and rivers. Others think that cooperation will get it done. I wish that would work by itself, but I have watched things just get worse because the good policies and laws are not in place.

One reason we beat back the bush administration on disastrous public land policies was because of timely and well fought lawsuits. I think that may be New Mexico's only hope when it comes to water. The problem is there is not near enough funding for groups like the New Mexico Environmental Law Center to do it.


Bosque Bill said...

Jim, you are right on the mark, again. You reminded me there was a hole in my philanthropy, so I rushed over to the NMELC web site and made a donation.

p.s., I know you are interested in the whole issue of the MRGCD not opening the ditch trails for public access. I just read a post on Duke City Fix about NM Senate Bill 222 which provides funding and direction to open the ditches for recreational access, managed by the Open Space District. It is apparently in front of the Public Affairs committee now.

Dr. Know said...

The Sierra Club (and less so the Nature Conservancy) also provide public education and legal resources to those who would protect our waterways, watersheds, and oceans. Water is a problem in Atlanta and downstream, and in Florida as well. California has perennially been the center of the "water wars". Far too much poorly/un-managed development...