Second Meeting: June 22, 2022

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The meeting consisted of several presentations, with the last hour reserved for discussion, questions, and feedback from the task force members. Dr. Nelia Dunbar, director of the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, led the first presentation titled, “A Foundation for the New Mexico 50 Year Water Plan,” also known as the “Leap Ahead Analysis.” She explained that this study is a collaboration between two state-funded agencies, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources and New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (NMISC). She stated that this study came about because she was approached by Rolf Schmidt-Petersen, director of the NMISC, who asked if she would be willing to convene a panel of experts on various aspects of Climate and Water Resources. Rolf, and others from the NMISC recognized that if we didn’t understand what was going to happen in terms of climate over the next 50 years, and how that was going to impact global resources, the 50-Year Water plan would not be built on a stable scientific foundation.

The new plan for the state must account for ongoing and future changes to our climate and water resource reliability. Nelia showed a graph of the temperature and precipitation in New Mexico over the last 90 years. The graph clearly shows an upward trend of annual temperature, with a steady climb for the past 50 years. Although precipitation doesn’t show a clear trend, it is highly variable, and it is important to note that 4 of the 5 driest years since 1930 have occurred in the past two decades. New Mexico’s climate will continue to warm in response to increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gasses. These increasing temperatures will increase aridity (dryness), thus reducing the available water over the next 50 years. Nelia explained that these dramatic changes will affect virtually all aspects of New Mexico’s economy and lifestyles— agriculture, tourism, industry, energy, and recreation. Task force members were provided with a condensed version of the study, which is available online along with the full 233-page study.

Rolf also got to speak on behalf of NMISC’s perspective on what this all means for our state. He explained the importance of public outreach, “ultimately, in order to become more resilient, or less vulnerable, individuals have to make decisions. Local communities have to make decisions, tribes and pueblos need to make decisions, right? We want to provide information here that helps them make informed decisions in a way that works for all of them. And it’s one of the things that the Governor has really asked us to try to do.” He explained that the idea behind public outreach is to get to the on-the-ground experts, because the scientists aren’t farmers, or water operators, or coming from a pueblo, or tribe perspective. Those will be the individuals that will have great expertise and can provide input. Unfortunately, they received less community engagement than anticipated and hoped for, Rolf reported.

The Task Force considered adding additional work groups to address Agriculture and Integrated Science Technology and Climate Science separately. Agriculture was included as a topic within Water Resources Management and Planning, and in the River, Aquifer and Watershed Health work groups. Integrated planning was included as a topic in the Water Resources Management and Planning workgroup. All workgroups have draft problem statements that include climate science within work group issue areas. Task Force members were asked to choose which work group they’d like to serve on, and also asked for clarification regarding who can attend work group meetings and the role of technical experts who are not on the task force.

Andrew Erdmann, Water Planning Program Manager of NMISC, was the final presenter at the meeting. He explained that the current 50-Year Water Plan recommendations are organized into three categories: Stewardship, Sustainability, and Equity. These themes were identified by the governor in 2018. He said that using the “Leap Ahead” projections is a critical step forward that will be made with this plan.

Meeting Notes

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