From the morning paper, a look at the effect of drought on farmers in southern New Mexico. It’s a more complex story than simply lack of water, and the impact depends a great deal on where you are:
The Franzoys’ problem is not so much the dropping aquifer as the quality of the groundwater. It is laden with salt. To keep his family’s 1,000 acres alive during the drought means to slowly suffocate the land. Drip irrigation can help by pushing salts away from the root zone, but the technology doesn’t solve the problem completely….
“If we don’t have surface water in the Hatch Valley,” Jerry Franzoy said, “it’s gonna die pretty quick.”
That’s in the Rincon/Hatch Valley, in the northern part of the region. To the south, aquifers are deeper and sweeter, but contested:
Compared to the Hatch Valley, the groundwater in the Mesilla Valley beneath Las Cruces and the cities around it looks luxuriously deep.
“In the Mesilla Valley, we’ve got an abundant groundwater source,” Daviet said. Where the aquifer in the Hatch Valley can be as shallow as 80 to 100 feet deep, the Mesilla aquifer extends hundreds of feet down, in some places thousands….
Its depth means it can act like a savings bank, Daviet said. In wet years, when there’s plenty of water from the Rio Grande, surface water is spread across the pecan orchards, with some of it soaking down and refilling the aquifer….
“We’ve applied water to that groundwater source in these years of plenty,” Daviet said….
But hovering over that practice is a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the state of Texas, which has a different view of the situation. The lawsuit charges that groundwater pumping in New Mexico, by lowering the water table during drought years, has effectively reduced what flow there is in the Rio Grande. The result, it charges, is less water available to farms and cities across the border in Texas.
In addition to the word stories, we also shot some video.