Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Many water opinions, few solutions

link Wendel Sloan

Local columnist

Robin Fornoff, this newspaper’s projects editor, reported Ogallala Aquifer levels continue dropping in Curry and Roosevelt counties, with 90 percent of the water being used for agriculture.

Gayla Brumfield, chair of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority, told me, “The sustainable piece of our water shortage solution is the Ute (pipeline) project.” She said, with conservation, reuse and groundwater, availability can be extended for years.

Portales mayor Sharon King said, “There is no single perfect solution. We must look at several possibilities, no matter how far outside the box.”

Randy Crowder, commissioner with the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, told me studies show the Ute pipeline is the most feasible solution. While admitting it could double water rates, he asked, “What is the alternative?”

Crowder noted farmers have legal rights to their property’s water, but find it increasingly difficult to pump what they need.

Portales resident Scott Smart commented, “Agriculture is eventually going away. We have to ask ourselves what kind of jobs can replace them.”

Matt Wilson, Portales water superintendent, noted the city’s water could be depleted in as little as 13 years. Portales is spending millions to expand water recycling.

“If we expand recycling enough (initially for irrigating government property, not human consumption),” Wilson told me, “we can extend the supply.”

An area retiree (requesting anonymity) thinks, without agricultural use, High Plains water could last 100 years.

“We need to re-think what we want to be,” he said. “For example, our low cost of living, low crime rate and free cultural activities, including at our colleges, could appeal to retirees.”

An area businessman involved in agriculture told me, again asking for anonymity, farmers need to continue increasing their cultivation of dry-land crops over water-intensive ones. “But if you tell farmers what to grow,” he said, “they will complain about socialism.”

I will do my part by not watering (or mowing) my yard. But when the rubber hits the road, I will be motoring back to greener pastures in east Texas.

Not everyone has that luxury.

Contact Wendel Sloan at:

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