Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Small Water System Partnership Workshop

Small Water System Partnership Workshop December 12, 2017 | Santa Fe, NM | 9:00AM-12:00PM Santa Fe Community College (Health Sciences Building Room 487) 6401 Richards Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87508 Register Online OR Download the Mail-In Registration Form CEUs: This workshop has been submitted to the state for CEUs. This workshop is complimentary. Please register to reserve your spot. Small systems face a variety of issues and concerns related to increasingly strict regulatory compliance, aging infrastructure, affordability, lack of economy of scale (it costs more to serve small communities than large ones on a per capita basis), decreasing population base, and many others. One strategy that can help small communities meet these challenges more economically is collaborating with other utilities. Learn more about formal and informal collaboration approaches including: sharing operators or bookkeepers, forming buying consortiums to purchase chemicals or equipment, sharing a water source, developing emergency interconnects, or forming a group to share information. Trainer: Heather Himmelberger, Director - Southwest Environmental Finance Center Contact: Francine Stefan, mfstefan@unm.edu Who Should Attend: This workshop is designed for water systems serving 10,000 or fewer people (though systems of any size may attend), especially targeting local government systems facing financial challenges. Owners of privately owned systems, consultants and technical assistance providers serving water systems are also invited to attend. Link to register on line is http://efcnetwork.org/events/new-mexico-small-water-system-partnership/

Monday, August 28, 2017

Udall, Heinrich Announce $3.4 Million for Restoration Projects in the Carson, Cibola, Gila, and Lincoln National Forests

Udall, Heinrich Announce $3.4 Million for Restoration Projects in the Carson, Cibola, Gila, and Lincoln National Forests WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced $3.4 million in funding from the U.S. Forest Service for restoration projects in four of New Mexico's national forests. The projects will aim to promote healthy watersheds, reduce the threat of wildfires, and improve the functioning of forest ecosystems by reducing the number and density of small diameter trees on public forest lands in New Mexico. The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service Collaborative Forest Restoration Program (CFRP) for ten projects in the Carson, Cibola, Gila, and Lincoln National Forests. "These projects will be instrumental in helping restore some of the most high priority areas in New Mexico's national forests," said Udall, a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Agriculture. "With New Mexico facing more severe wildfires every year, it is imperative we focus on strategies to prevent future wildfires, increase the health of watersheds, and improve the overall forest ecosystems. I was proud to help secure funding that helps the U.S. Forest Service invest in the long-term health of New Mexico's forests." “Forests in New Mexico provide us with drinking water, space for traditional activities like hunting and fishing, and boost our outdoor recreation economy. This critical funding will help restore New Mexico’s forests and protect our communities from the threat of wildfires, provide support to promote healthy watersheds, and improve the forest ecosystem,” said Heinrich. “I will continue to work to ensure these restoration projects remain a priority.” Recipients of this year's grant money include private forest sector businesses, conservation organizations, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the Pueblo of Santa Ana. Of the total funding, $955,651 will go toward three projects in the Carson National Forest, $1.76 million will go toward five projects in the Cibola National Forest, $315,119 will go toward one project in the Gila National Forest and $360,000 will go toward one project in the Lincoln National Forest. Projects by the CFRP conduct forest landscape restoration planning and analyses; develop products, markets and capacity for the utilization of small-diameter forest materials; conduct community outreach and youth education programs; and complete critical on-the-ground forest and watershed restoration activities.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How a California groundwater case could affect Nevada and the West The Nevada Independent By Daniel Rothberg

How a California groundwater case could affect Nevada and the West The Nevada Independent By Daniel Rothberg …The case looks to clarify what rights Native American tribes have to groundwater on reservations. In 1908, the Supreme Court said tribes possessed a federal right to surface water, but lower courts have since clashed over whether or not those rights extend to groundwater. …For nearly 100 years, courts have differed and danced around the issue of whether reservation rights include groundwater. But in March, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gave a definitive answer in the affirmative, extending groundwater rights to a California tribe in the Coachella Valley around Palm Springs. The three-judge panel said the federal government, in establishing reservations, had impliedly earmarked groundwater for tribal use. The court took the additional step of explicitly saying a tribe’s federal groundwater rights preempt state law. Tribes applauded the Ninth Circuit ruling in Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians vs. Coachella Valley Water District, et. al. And several attorneys who work on Native American resource issues said they expected to see a maelstrom of litigation as tribes act on the ruling. But the decision left many questions unanswered, and that uncertainty worries arid states where water is scarce. Where do the states’ water laws fit into the Ninth Circuit’s decision? That is the central question in the amicus brief from Laxalt on behalf of attorneys general in Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Authority over water traditionally belongs to the states. They decide how water is regulated and allocated. States are concerned that losing any control over management could further endanger aquifers that provide drinking water and often support ranching, mining and farming operations. New claims to unaccounted groundwater rights — rights that would preempt state law — could disrupt an already strained system, they argue. And the recent ruling might indirectly affect water rights on federal land that’s been reserved for national parks or military bases. Some have even argued it could affect the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s proposed pipeline project. The case history – May 2013: A Palm Springs-based tribe, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, sues two California water agencies to assert a priority right to groundwater. The tribe, with more than 400 members and 31,000 acres, criticizes how the public agencies have managed the aquifer and said they want to play a greater role in its governance. The two agencies publicly question its motives, suggesting there might be a financial incentive. – June 2014: The U.S. government joins the case and argues that the tribe’s priority rights — under what is known as the “reserved rights doctrine” — extend to groundwater. – March 2015: A district court judge rules that reserved rights include groundwater. – March 2017: The Ninth Circuit upholds the ruling. – July 2017: The agencies appeal to the Supreme Court. – August 2017: Nevada, with nine states, files a brief urging the Court to hear the case. About the reserved rights doctrine The basis for federal water rights stem from a 1908 Supreme Court case, Winters v. United States. In the Winters case, the court ruled that through establishing an Indian reservation, the federal government had impliedly allocated enough water necessary to fulfill the reservation’s purpose. In a 1963 Supreme Court case, these rights were applied to all public lands, including national monuments and wildlife refuges. The court has refined the doctrine since then, but it has never conclusively answered the question of whether reserved rights include groundwater. The Supreme Court hasn’t entirely avoided the issue. In a 1975 case involving the Death Valley National Monument, the court said that the U.S. government could protect groundwater on federal land from over-pumping. (In the case, pumping threatened the pupfish at Devils Hole.) The Ninth Circuit cited the case in its March opinion: “If the United States can protect against groundwater diversions, it follows that the government can protect the groundwater itself.” There were three significant findings in the appellate decision: 1) Tribes have a federal reserved right to groundwater on their land. 2) As federal water rights, they preempt conflicting state law. 3) The rights are not lost even if they haven’t been used in the past. What that means is up for interpretation. “It’s not clear what that would mean, for state law to be preempted,” said Leon Szeptycki, an attorney who leads a water policy group at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment. The potential impact on Nevada and other states Laxalt writes of “potentially devastating consequences” if the Supreme Court decides to let the Ninth Circuit decision stand. Giving preemption to federal rights could disrupt the state’s ability to manage water and impact economies that have relied on groundwater for years, he argues. Since almost all of Nevada’s groundwater is allocated or over-allocated, he argues that the “longstanding and settled appropriation regime will be disrupted by new, unaccounted-for federal reserved groundwater rights claims that are suddenly asserted for the first time.” The result is that the new claims could push out people who have already built communities or businesses around their water rights. “Existing groundwater users may lose their established right to use that water, or be subject to curtailment in the inevitable times of scarcity,” he wrote. Given that 85 percent of Nevada land is owned by the federal government, Laxalt said that the state includes a large portion of land where possible claims could be made. When the case was pending before the Ninth Circuit, two Nevada tribes signed onto a brief supporting the Agua Caliente tribe. The Agua Caliente case was also cited during a recent hearing on the water authority’s proposed pipeline, which would convey billions of gallons of groundwater to Las Vegas. A lawyer for the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation raised the Ninth Circuit ruling during a hearing on the 263-mile pipeline project that has been held up by several legal actions. Tribes could assert reserved rights in areas where SNWA would want to pump groundwater. “There is a potential that it could apply to the pipeline project as well,” said Howard Watts, a spokesman for Great Basin Water Network, which is leading the legal fight against the project. Nevada’s opposition to the Ninth Circuit ruling taps into a larger debate about the role that the federal government should play in managing land. When the attorney general announced the amicus brief, he framed it as “challenging federal overreach on groundwater rights.” In a press release, Laxalt said he was taking “necessary steps to clarify states’ groundwater rights and ensure Nevada’s best interests are being protected from unnecessary and unwarranted federal interference.” Throughout the brief, Laxalt argued that favoring federal water rights would also undermine the state’s ability to make its own choices. The ruling, Laxalt wrote, “has left the states with great uncertainty in an area of paramount sovereign importance.” Is the Supreme Court likely to hear it? That depends on who you ask. Lawyers in the “yes” camp say that the Ninth Circuit decision has national implications and would settle a topic that has led to conflicting outcomes. In the past, state courts have reached differing conclusions on how these rights fit in with state water law. Wyoming’s Supreme Court said tribes did not have a federal groundwater right. In a later case, the Arizona Supreme Court said there was a right, just within the framework of state law. Others are skeptical. Monte Mills, an assistant professor at the University of Montana’s Indian Law Clinic, said he thinks the Supreme Court will be reluctant to hear the case until the lower courts decide how much groundwater should be allocated to the Agua Caliente tribe. Supporters and opponents agree on one thing: if the Ninth Circuit opinion stands, a flood of litigation is coming.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Domestic water testing Ruidoso

New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) are hosting free Domestic Well Water Testing events in Ruidoso on August 18 and 19, 2017 and Pecos on September 9, 2017. These well water testing events are great opportunities for area residents to check pH, specific conductance, and the levels of arsenic, fluoride, iron, sulfate, and nitrate in their well water. NMED and DOH staff will also be available to discuss concerns related to private wells and water quality. The Ruidoso event will take place at the Eastern New Mexico University- Ruidoso at 709 Mechem Drive, in Ruidoso. Water samples will be accepted from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Friday, August 18, and from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 19. The Pecos event will take place at the Pecos Municipal Building at 92 South main Street, in Pecos. Water samples will be accepted from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 9. To participate, residents need to bring at least a quart of their well water to the event. Well water should be collected in a clean container, prior to any treatment, and as close to the time of the event as possible. Participants should allow water to run a couple of minutes prior to collecting well water. Stay Connected with New Mexico Environment Department

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

U.S. Senator Tom Udall delivered the keynote address at New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute

SOCORRO, N.M. — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall delivered the keynote address at New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute’s (WRRI) 62nd Annual N.M. Water Conference. In his address, entitled "Federal Water Policy and New Mexico: Our Progress and the Challenges Ahead," Udall discussed the current water challenges facing New Mexico, including climate change, innovative solutions and opportunities for making every drop count, and his work to improve federal water policy to best support New Mexico’s communities. Udall last addressed the NM WRRI Water Conference in 2012, and afterward issued a comprehensive report recommending 40 proposed actions based on suggestions contributed by the over 500 stakeholder participants. In his remarks today, Udall provided an update on his efforts to improve federal water policy affecting New Mexico communities — including his comprehensive drought legislation, now called the New Mexico Drought Preparedness Act, which he wrote based on the stakeholder recommendations in the 2012 report. Udall reintroduced the bill in June with Senator Martin Heinrich. “We face a 21st century supply and demand situation. Regional water managers expect that, in the coming decades, we will see water shortages everywhere in our state except the San Juan Basin. In the south, growth around the border zone in Santa Teresa and Las Cruces will drive even more demand for municipal and industrial water. And the climate is warming,” Udall said. "These are big challenges. Tensions can run high over water in the West. … Cooperation will be the only successful strategy -- to prepare for drought, to adapt to climate change, and to modernize our integrated water system. We must balance agriculture use, urban areas, and ecosystem needs." "We know drought will return,” Udall continued. "Now is the time to prepare." Udall also provided an update on two other pieces of legislation to improve efficiency and limit waste which emerged from the 2012 conference, the Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Act, and the Water Efficiency Improvement Act. He is optimistic that both bills will move forward this year. Following his speech, Udall moderated a panel discussion, “Addressing hidden realities of new water opportunities," with several water experts, including Myron Armijo, governor of Santa Ana Pueblo; and Terry Brunner, chief program officer with Grow New Mexico. He also participated in a discussion with his cousin Brad Udall, senior water and climate research scientist/scholar at Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute, about the "Udall Water Legacy" and the influences that have shaped their views on water and Western water policy. The full text of Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below. Illustrations shown during the speech are available here. Thank you for being part of this annual conference. It’s great to be back with you! Thank you President Wells and New Mexico Tech for hosting us here -- adjacent to the Rio Grande. This is the ideal backdrop for discussing smart strategies for the enormous water challenges facing our state today. And a huge thanks to Sam Fernald, Cathy Ortega Klett, and the team for organizing this important get together -- as they have done for many years running, now. This audience has the technological knowledge -- matched with innovative ideas -- to help ensure a sustainable future for New Mexico water. I have a great deal of respect for New Mexico’s Institute -- and the other states’ water research institutes. As a co-sponsor of the legislation to reauthorize these institutes, I am optimistic about its passage and continued solid bipartisan support for funding. I will do my part on the Senate Appropriations Committee. I am back here -- five years later -- to report back about the progress we’ve made since the 2012 conference. At that time, we discussed many policy ideas. And afterward, we issued a report full of actions to take. But before we get into that, I’d like to briefly talk about today’s water resource management landscape. Because that tricky picture shows why we need to come together like this and seek cooperative solutions. I always like to start with John Wesley Powell’s map of the watersheds in the West. I have this map hanging in my office in Washington. Powell thought state lines should follow those boundaries. And if they didn’t, there would be water problems. Well, he was right. On top of that, Western water has a 19th century legal framework – with 20th century infrastructure – and 21st century pressures of increasing demand and climate change. Our long-term water supply and consumption are out of balance – even with current conservation efforts. Water professionals here today know this in technical terms. Farmers here know this in personal terms. First, the legal system – based on the need to develop the West – rewards use, not conservation. Those laws are adapting -- but largely remain on the books. Next, our 20th century infrastructure is aging. Elephant Butte Dam just celebrated its centennial — and it is not alone. Water lines and treatment plants are many decades old. Across the country, we have more than $350 billion worth of water infrastructure needs. Much of that is simply maintenance and repair. Here are some quick statistics on why we should invest: •For every one dollar we spend on water infrastructure, we return six dollars to our gross domestic product; •Investment in water infrastructure contributes more than $150 billion each year to annual household income, and; •Failure to invest in water and wastewater systems will lead to the loss of nearly 500,000 jobs by 2025 and 950,000 jobs by 2040. The needs I am talking about are not big new dams and pipelines. The era of guaranteed big federal investment in new water projects is largely over. The budget pressures and environmental costs are just too large. So we need to focus primarily on maintaining the water infrastructure we have. And I hold out hope – and am pushing for – a federal infrastructure package that would help address these needs, especially in the West. President Trump may not spend a lot of time thinking about the Bureau of Reclamation. But Secretary Zinke does. And we are doing everything we can to work closely with him on infrastructure. I even went horseback riding with him the other day. Finally, we face a 21st century supply and demand situation. Regional water managers expect that, in the coming decades, we will see water shortages everywhere in our state except the San Juan Basin. In the south, growth around the border zone in Santa Teresa and Las Cruces will drive even more demand for municipal and industrial water. And the climate is warming. In the Southwest, we’ve seen a 2.5 degree temperature increase since 1971. Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2016 was Earth's warmest year on record. And it was the third year in a row that temperatures broke global records. The Bureau of Reclamation projects that the Rio Grande Basin will be hit the hardest over the coming century -- warming 5 to 6 degrees by 2100. That would cut the water flow south of Elephant Butte by half. And that is on top of a similar-size reduction from the San Juan Chama project – based on changes in New Mexico’s Colorado River allocations in low water years. These are big challenges. Tensions can run high over water in the West. Inter-basin transfers, endangered species, municipal versus rural users, Texas versus New Mexico, the U.S. versus Mexico. The list goes on. Cooperation will be the only successful strategy -- to prepare for drought, to adapt to climate change, and to modernize our integrated water system. We must balance agriculture use, urban areas, and ecosystem needs. Five years ago, we came together to discuss policy options to manage water scarcity in New Mexico. At that time, the state was in severe drought. Your insight and investment helped produce a report. It identified problem areas and made consensus-based policy recommendations, primarily in areas where the federal government can help. The signature result of that was the 2013 New Mexico Drought Relief Act. This spring, I reintroduced the bill for the third time, along with Senator Heinrich. We renamed it the New Mexico Drought Preparedness Act. You can see why. Here’s the most recent map of New Mexico drought conditions – from August 8 of this year. And here’s a map from four years ago – August 6, 2013. A marked – and welcome -- change. But we should be honest with ourselves—with 16 of the last 17 years as the hottest years on record—this reprieve is temporary. While the drought map looks much better, Dr. Phil King with New Mexico State has made an important point recently. Groundwater levels have been depressed since 2003, and Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoir are just above 16 percent and 18 percent capacity respectively. Drier conditions are likely our New Normal. The Drought Act includes provisions to: •Study the whole Rio Grande Basin with the National Academies of Science, •Study additional water storage opportunities to provide additional management flexibility, •Promote voluntary water sharing among stakeholders in the Middle Rio Grande, •Extend the Emergency Drought Relief Act to allow the Bureau of Reclamation adapt to strained water supplies, and •Use our current authorities more effectively. We know drought will return. Now is the time to prepare. We are making progress with the bill, but Congress is slow. It’s like pushing water up hill. The Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power has held two hearings on the bill -- one in 2015 and one this June. We want to get the bill out of committee and through the Senate – as part of a larger package of water bills. We have also seen progress on parts of the bill in other ways. First has been the annual appropriations process. This year I was able to extend authorization of the Emergency Drought Relief Act to 2022. And we increased the spending cap for water projects by $30 million. We expect it will pass later this year-- and provide flexible operations and planning authority for the whole Reclamation system when there is drought. We have also included important language and funding -- to help Reclamation with voluntary water leasing efforts in the Middle Rio Grande. This was one of the key pieces of our 2012 report. Voluntary water sharing helps compensate farmers for stream flows - and avoid more difficult issues with the Endangered Species Act. In addition, two water efficiency bills came out of our 2012 effort. And both were in an energy bill that passed the Senate last year. And both bills are very well positioned to move in any energy legislation again this year. One of the bills, the Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Act, addresses the energy-water nexus -- treating water as an expensive and energy intensive process. Leaks and breaks waste as much as 2 trillion gallons of purified drinking water each year. Water that takes a huge amount of energy—and money—to treat and pump. And then just goes into the ground. So our bill supports investment in information technology -- that can identify decreases in water pressure, and identify leaks and breaks immediately or even before they occur – to save water, energy and money. The second bill, the Water Efficiency Improvement Act, would make the EPA’s popular WaterSense program permanent. For those who don’t know, WaterSense is like the EnergyStar label but for water fixtures like faucets and sprinklers. Since 2006, WaterSense products saved more than 2.1 trillion gallons of water -- and more than $46.3 billion in consumer water and energy bills. Each dollar spent on this program saved consumers an estimated $1,100. My bipartisan bill would make WaterSense permanent. This legislation is especially needed now because the new Administration wants to eliminate WaterSense. We’ve also made progress on other proposals from the 2012 Conference Report, including: •Restarting annual funding to the Transboundary Aquifer Research -- which allows for collaboration and data exchange between Mexican and U.S. partners. •Funding from the Army Corps of Engineers for the Rio Grande Environmental Management Program -- to repay past commitments to New Mexico towns and cities for water infrastructure. •Giving acequias and other agricultural users access to additional U.S. Department of Agriculture funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program to help unique New Mexico water users update their historic irrigation systems. •Helping secure $150 million dollars over the last two years for the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program. That program provides technical and financial help to support off-farm conservation projects. •Dedicating a portion of EPA water funding for “green infrastructure.” This uses natural hydrology designs to reduce runoff and contamination at lower costs than traditional—mostly concrete—projects. The Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority completed a first of its kind project with this funding just last year. In 2012, the threat of climate change underpinned our conference report. Climate change still inform all we do in terms of water resource management. The first natural system affected by climate change is water. And that threat is here and now.   We have seen this first-hand in New Mexico – severe droughts, decreased snow pack, flooding caused by uncharacteristically warm winters and springs, and catastrophic fires causing severe erosion and damaging surface water. Climate change impacts are being felt throughout the West. The time to adapt is now. The science of climate change should not be political. We must make our policy decisions based on the science – and our responsibility to future generations. You are a cohort of smart, technically savvy, and politically astute water experts. You can help think through the new round of challenges we have -- and work together to solve problems. The stakes are high. But as Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” As your senator, my job is to help groups of thoughtful, committed citizens like you effect that change. So I returned to report on our progress—and I am seeking your feedback for future work. We are looking for cooperative ideas, not taking sides in conflicts. Rest assured -- we have plenty of conflict in Washington these days. I am also excited to hear about your success stories. Many of you have accomplished great things in the past five years, and learned a lot that you can share. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Elephant Butte, our Tribes and Pueblos, acequia associations, our arroyo flood control authorities, water utilities and other state and local agencies are working hard on these issues every day. As are conservation groups and academic organizations. Thank you all. So, my staff and I look forward to your insight and expertise today and tomorrow -- and to working together to make our state’s water supplies more secure for our children and grandchildren. I have some time for questions, if you would like, before our next presentation.