Today U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) underscored the need for collaboration on drought and water supply challenges as he opened the 57th Annual New Mexico WRRI Water Conference, Hard Choices: Adapting Policy and Management to Water Scarcity.
"I believe we are at a crossroads, where we will have to make hard choices," Udall said. "The hardest choice is between conflict and cooperation. In New Mexico we cannot afford to be cynical about the value of water, and so we must work together - citizens, advocates, local, state and federal officials - to collaborate on shared solutions."
Udall, a co-host of the conference, joined New Mexico State University President Barbara Couture and New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) Director Sam Fernald with remarks opening the conference's preliminary program.
In his comments, Udall described the goals of water policy: to focus on the supply of water for the future; maintain sustainable agriculture in New Mexico; enable sustainable municipal and industrial growth; restore living rivers and streams for fishing, recreation, and wildlife; avoid litigation; create opportunities for regional planning and improve communication among the numerous agencies involved in carrying out water policy.
Udall noted that progress has been made through the use of innovative technologies like recycling by municipalities and the oil and gas industry, using solar power in desalination brackish aquifers, the development of algae biofuel projects in New Mexico and using "smart" water technology to reduce massive amounts of leakage from aging infrastructure.
In addition, Udall called for a more flexible, adaptive and collaborative federal role while building on past successes of local and regional watershed planning.
"The federal government must continue to lead on research, monitoring, and data collection," Udall said. "Funding cuts to these functions are dangerous. They are like flying blind."
Overall, the agenda for the conference is to improve how water policy is made and carried out. Through panel discussions and presentations, Udall and conference organizers will seek audience input, both during and after the conference. Following the conference, a compilation of options will be put together and published online to solicit further input, reach broader consensus, and be available for anyone to use as a resource.
Udall will moderate a panel discussion, "Straight Talk: Voices of Experience from the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer," beginning at 2:45 p.m. MDT.
The panel will be streamed live online at: http://2012.wrri.nmsu.edu/webcast