Saturday’s post about Phoenix and the need for proper institutional structures to sort out the West’s water problems was really a bit of shadowboxing with a piece I was working on for today’s paper about New Mexico (sub. ad req.) It’s about an ongoing argument here about a proposed water rights agreement between our Interstate Stream Commission and Intel. The agreement was an attempt by the ISC to do something very much outside the normal water management box, and it’s run into a shitstorm of criticism.
I argue that one of its problems is that we lack the institutional framework under which to consider a deal like this:
But it is also clear that, if López and his team are right about the deal’s legality and merits — and there is reason to think they might be — we do not have the political and institutional framework in this state to have a proper discussion of the issues being raised.
There is no institutional forum for the discussion of an idea like this, a place where the major players with skin in the state water game — the big municipal utilities, irrigators, the pueblos, the state regulators and legislators — regularly sit down to discuss our water future.
The Intel deal is just one small item on the long list of possible solutions to our water problems — increased water conservation, desalination of brackish groundwater, sale of water from agriculture to urban use, improved management of dams to reduce evaporation, long-distance transfers from places that have water to those that don’t, changes in endangered species protections.
All involve, to a greater or lesser extent, old law and engineering versus new realities. But without a sufficiently broad statewide forum in which to have the conversation, the best solutions are likely to founder on the same shoals on which the Intel deal has run aground.
Comments welcome – in fact, encouraged.