Gila River water governance gizmo built. Sort of.

New Mexico’s Interstate Stream Commission yesterday formally approved the creation of a “New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity,” a governance gizmo needed to move forward with a proposal to divert Colorado River tributary water from the Gila River in New Mexico:

Interstate Stream Commission members have approved a resolution designating a 14-member unit to design and build the Gila River diversion project in southwestern New Mexico.

The resolution, OK’d during Wednesday’s commission meeting in Albuquerque, identifies the parties making up the so-called New Mexico CAP, or Central Arizona Project, entity. The creation of the unit was necessary to proceed with the project that provides for the annual diversion of water from the Gila River for use in Catron, Grant, Luna and Hidalgo counties.

Parties making up the unit are the county commissions of Catron, Grant, Luna and Hildalgo; the governing bodies of the cities of Deming and Lordsburg and the village of Santa Clara; the Fort West Irrigation Association; the Gila Farm Irrigation Association; the Gila Hotsprings Irrigation Association; the Hidalgo Soil and Water Conservation District; the San Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Gila Irrigation Association.

There are many reasons to be skeptical about this project, the most important of which is that someone has to come up with gazillions of dollars in return for very little water. But there’s also reason to be skeptical on governance grounds.

All along, this project has been driven by the staff of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, a state agency. Now it is being handed off to what, at this point, is a thing of paper. One of the central points scholars who study water governance institutions have found is that building good ones is really hard, taking a concerted effort that is most effective when it grows out of repeated interactions among the communities that live within the boundaries to be governed (see here, here, and here). This process has not played out that way, which means that the “New Mexico CAP Entity” is not made up of people and entities that have done the heavy lifting needed to develop the levels of trust, reciprocity, and shared understanding of the region’s resource issues that will be required to make this thing work.

This would be different if the project had been driven all along by the people and entities now tasked with carrying it forward. You can’t just slap down some governance and expect it to succeed at a problem like this.


  1. LEB – I’m pretty sure it’s specified in the Arizona Water Settlements Act, the federal legislation that underpins all of this.

  2. As much as we all want a solution to the many problems we share such as this, and as much as we want lots of affected individuals and organizations involved, the track record of the people who seem to always be put in charge of the decisions is dismal. In Sierra County it is always the same and the top of the mountain keeps asking these incompetents and special interest leaders in their own little ponds and they keep screwing it up. Herein lies the real problem.

  3. After decades w/hundreds of dams, we now know they MESSED UP the environment to a degree much greater than any good they did. Therefore, Now we are getting rid of them….and GOING BACK TO NATURE w/THOSE WATERS. What have we learned?


    This plan of diverging the Gila MUST NOT HAPPEN. Period!

  4. Leave well enough alone! All humans do, especially those in politics, is ruin everything, including our land, wildlife, and environment. Enough is enough!

  5. A water-grab by any other name is still a water-grab. We have enough water problems without compounding them. Taking from “peter” will not give to “paul”. Both will lose and consequences could be dire.

  6. O.K. who is going to pay for it? How much water will they be diverting? Any idea which person to contact?

  7. Has thorough research been done based on the outcome of past similar projects and the effect it has had on the wildlife environment and will this be made available to the public?
    I would like to know how the whole proposed project will be funded; who will answer to the taxpayers as this money is used, and how would the maintenance cost of such a project be absorbed into the budgets of every person using this water.
    what are the names of the large companies who will receive the millions of dollars in contracts, and will the public have say in who receives these contracts.
    Lastly, how was this moved forward with the majority of the residents in opposition.

  8. All indications are that this project will yield very little water, and it will cost up to a billion dollars or more. It makes no sense!

  9. The Gila is an amazing river in SW New Mexico. Damming and/or diverting water from this river will not end well; best to let the river flow and leave the water in it.

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