Historic Day for New Mexico Water

From Sean Olson:

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority flips the switch on its $385 million San Juan-Chama Drinking Water project, bringing treated river water directly into the homes of most Albuquerque-area residents.


  1. San Juan-Chama Drinking Water project? Is Albuquerque getting its water from the western side of the Continental Divide now, like Denver does? (Is this part of the Colorado River Compact water that was allocated to New Mexico ages ago?)

  2. Kim –

    Yeah. We’ve got a pipe under the continental divide built in the 1960s-70s to get a portion of New Mexico’s Colorado Compact water to the Rio Grande Valley, where we all live.

    I wrote a little bit more background over on my work blog:


  3. (This may sound grumpier than I intend. Apologies in advance)

    This story kind of highlights one of my genuine complaints with a lot of published newspaper journalism. If you have an interest in the topic (e.g. from reading this blog), there’s another side to the story that isn’t addressed: this water is coming from somewhere; is somebody else being deprived somehow? What are the downstream effects?

    John, your background blog piece and the follow-up you mention you’re going to be writing, seems an important half to the story. Yet the original piece you post to doesn’t mention either of those, whether because the reporter didn’t know, or whatever reason — I’m only observing the net effect from the outside. So somebody reading the original story, as I did before clicking through here to post a comment and see your extra link, is going to be left feeling a bit cheated in the quality of the coverage. I really don’t know if this is part of the way journalism works intentionally, or if it’s an oversight in this case or if I’m reading too much into it (although if a semi-intelligent reader reads a story and feels the other side is missing, that’s probably not reading too much into it).

    I freely acknowledge there could well be logistical reasons (e.g. available column inches) why the full story could not be told in the original piece, but that only serves to highlight the problem, not excuse it. If only half the story gets told, it’s not being told at all; it’s being framed (happy news here — maybe you’ll be lucky and see the flip side on Sunday).

  4. Malcolm,

    Thank you for writing your comment.

    I have had the same concerns for years.

    I would like journalism to include simple addition and subtraction. I would like to know what other resources are being impacted by some proposed plan.

    Like you said, the water has to come from somewhere. Where does it come from and who is impacted or where does it no longer go.

    In a similar vein, in other news stories, the money, people, political influence, vaccines, infrastructure for solar, demand for goods, decrease in credit card debt, etc. all have to come from somewhere. The somewheres are seldom mentioned. If the somewheres are mentioned, they often conflict with the next story over.

    For instance, how can the U.S. reduce citizens’ credit card debt by getting consumers to spend more to revive the economy? For this example, the proposed solution seems to be the same as the effect that created the problem.

    As another example. today, President-elect Obama said that he would have a massive jobs program to repair the infrastructure of the country. This sounds good until you realize that these are minimum wage jobs for high school dropouts, including illegal immigrants, and not innovative jobs that would create new industries in the U.S. and new contributions to the GDP. These jobs do not impact autoworkers, financial analysts, computer scientists, or small retail operations–the people who need the jobs and have lost theirs. These jobs are unlikely to repair anyone’s 401K or increase the Dow. The simplest somewheres (the sources of money) that could fund this program are investment in stable innovative job creation, support of our military, support of our national labs, or put the costs on a credit card for our children to pay. So, in essence, the program consists of stealing from a prosperous future for our country for very temporary political gain directed at uneducated Democratic male voters. I expect more thought in enacting policies. I would like journalists to point out the shortsightedness of some of these ‘solutions’ –the other half of the story.

    The half stories occur within the topics of this blog but they seem to occur everywhere else in journalism as well.

    From journalists, I would like at least a routine mention of the somewheres that have to be decreased in order for the point of the article to occur.

    A classic example of not doing this comes from Australia. Australians imported cattle to provide meat and to make Australia feel more like England. The Australians were then surprised that vast tracts of land were no longer productive because this land was now covered in cow poop. The cow droppings were not decomposed by native organisms. No one paid attention to this side of the story. Journalists could have said, ‘Hey, guys. Cows poop. Where does the poop go?’ The cow poop story goes on and ends with fields now packed with hungry toads instead of cow poop, an interesting denouement.

    I think that many of the commenters on this blog have, less directly than Malcolm did, been making Malcolm’s point for quite a while now. Please, John, show us some of the somewheres that are implicit in a given story.

    I do not know whether including the somewheres that are depleted during some proposed action will sell more newspapers or fewer newspapers, but I would like the somewheres to be included in the articles so that I am not forced to go to the Economist or other places to find the other half of the story.

    To John

    Oh, yeah. And keep up the good work that you are already doing.

  5. Malcolm and Eric –

    A newspaper story is like peeling an onion. If you care about an issue, or are seriously curious, there are *always* going to be 10 interesting questions suggested for every one question answered in the story. The story you read has to choose a single path through a multi-dimensional story space – of possible questions to be asked an answered, important implications to be explored.

    As to Malcolm’s question, it is a good and central one, which will be answered in a story I’ve written for Sunday’s paper. But those close to the situation, or those seriously curious, will be able to reasonably point to 10 additional questions raised by that story, and if I peeled down the onion to that layer, there are another 15 great questions beyond that.

    As to Eric’s question about coverage of the economic stimulus-bailout, I would caution against equating good journalism with journalism that agrees with your preconceived notions about this or any issue.

  6. Your point on preconcieved notions is an important one.

    If you would, please give us a glimpse on how a journalist picks a story line for a particular story. It would seem to be hard to do since the story and its underlying meaning seems to change daily or weekly for certain kinds of stories.


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