Today, Governor Susana Martinez issued a formal drought declaration that encompasses the entire state of New Mexico. According to State Engineer Scott Verhines, 90 percent of New Mexico faced severe drought conditions at some point during the last year, with the remaining areas facing moderate drought. The 2011 water year was also the second driest on record.
"Drought conditions can create serious problems for many New Mexico communities, farms, ranches, and open spaces. Fire danger is high, water reservoirs run low, and in some cases, we've seen towns like Las Vegas take dramatic steps to reduce basic water consumption in their residents' homes and businesses," said Governor Martinez. "In addition to the work we're doing at the state level to assist communities facing serious drought conditions, I'm hopeful this declaration will assist them in securing any available federal funding as well."
Last week, Governor Martinez met with Las Vegas Mayor Alfonso Ortiz to continue their discussion on ways the state can help Las Vegas residents overcome the water shortages they face each year. Last year, Governor Martinez participated in an event to mark the beginning of the Moreno Street Reclaimed Water Project in Las Vegas, which was funded by a Community Development Block Grant. She also marked an agreement between the State Engineer's Office, Department of Game and Fish, and the City of Las Vegas to provide 125 acre-feet of water from Storrie Lake to the city.
The Governor has also supported longer-term solutions to the city's water challenges, such as repairing Peterson Dam and increasing the height of the dam, which would substantially increase the Las Vegas water supply. In her capital outlay request during the recent legislative session, she requested $16 million in infrastructure investment for dam repairs across New Mexico, including at Peterson Dam. Lawmakers did not approve the funding for dam repairs. Just last month, the Water Trust Board provided $600,000 to the City of Las Vegas for engineering work on Peterson Dam repairs, and the Governor will again support providing necessary dam repair funding in capital outlay legislation next session.
The Drought Declaration will also convene the New Mexico Drought Task Force, led by the State Engineer, to examine ways the state can prepare for and mitigate the problems that occur in New Mexico due to persistent drought conditions.
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