Panel II - Upstream/Downstream: Dead

The New Mexico Water Dialogue’s
13th Annual Statewide Meeting
January 12, 2006
Water Planning – So What?
Panel II - Upstream/Downstream: Dead-end or Model for the Future?
John Brown, Prospects for Cooperation - This is a large panel and we need to move quickly,
so I will try to set it up for everybody else. “Upstream/Downstream” is a Dialogue project but it
was supported and endorsed by the Interstate Stream Commission. They paid for S.S.
Popadopulos & Associates to participate as a technical advisor. The Utton Center is playing an
important role now, as you will find, in convening meetings of a small group to develop a scope
of work for further collaboration and for implementing cooperative strategies. The major funding
for this came from the McCune Charitable Foundation. McCune has generously supported the
Dialogue over several years and I wanted to acknowledge their special grant to help us with this
The Middle Rio Grande Basin
[next slide] Here is the Upstream/Downstream
set of regions. The Rio Grande compact, as
Rolf has mentioned, requires New Mexico to
deliver water to Texas and downstream users
in New Mexico by limiting depletions in the
reach between Otowi and Elephant Butte to a
maximum of 405,000 acre-feet a year. That’s
a maximum in a good year. Persistent failure
to meet these requirements will affect three
New Mexico planning regions: Jemez y
Sangre at the top, the Middle Rio Grande
counties, and then Socorro and Sierra
counties. If New Mexico fails to meet its
mandated deliveries, as happened in the lower
Pecos valley, the state could lose control over
its Rio Grande water and all the residents of
the basin would suffer the consequences.
[next slide, below] This is the famous ‘blue
carrot,’ produced by Papadopulos to show the
effect of depletions on the Rio Grande
between Otowi gauge and Elephant Butte,
resulting in a projected average surface water
deficit of about 40,000 acre-feet and a depletion
Source: SSPA 2004. MRG WSS Phase 3. Fig. ES-5.
of 71,000 acre-feet of ground storage. If you add
those two together, you see an average 110,000 acre-feet a year deficit that we’re running in the
Rio Grande. Though the regional water plans in each of the three regions tried to deal with
supply and demand issues, this did not extend to inter-regional coordination. For instance,
it’s economically and technically practical for interested parties in one region to import water
from another region’s assumed supply, and to meet their water budgets, two [of the three]
regions in their plans have considered or recommended strategies that rely on importing water
from other regions on which those regions’ own plans rely. There’s no mechanism in the
regional water plans to deal with these conflicts, or indeed to ensure that the regional water plan
alternatives are implemented.
[next slide, below] In 2001, the ISC commissioned S.S. Papadopulos & Associates to prepare the
Middle Rio Grande Water Supply Study, Phase III for the basin, the three regions between Otowi
gauge and Elephant Butte. SSPA found a whole bunch of things. I’m not going to read them all
to you, but I do want to point out that on average, the historical native Rio Grande was not
adequate to meet Year 2000 demands in the basin. San Juan-Chama project water and
groundwater mining so far have
MRG WSS Phase 3 Summary of Conclusions
Average historically available water supply is inadequate to meet present Basin
demands. (San Juan-Chama Project water and groundwater withdrawals currently
mask the deficit.)
To achieve a balance between renewable supply and Year 2000 demand, at least
71,000 af/y and perhaps as much as 110,600 af/y of additional supply or reduction in
demand is required.
Given historic variability, under Year 2000 conditions RG Compact debits are
expected to occur 3 out of every 5 years.
Increased water use in any sector will require a reduction in other sectors to avoid
increasing RG Compact debit.
The groundwater supply is connected to the river. Its use results in diminished flows of
the Rio Grande that occur in the present and continue into the future.
The water supply is only depleted by consumptive use; reducing diversions and return
flows resulting in better delivery efficiency does not increase the water supply.
Under drought conditions, annual Compact debits increase in frequency and
magnitude; water availability limits irrigated agricultural usage 1 year out of every 5.
Full implementation of regional water planning alternatives improves Compact
deliveries. However, implementation of the joint alternatives as proposed and
included in the RWPs will be challenging, if feasible.
disguised the underlying reality of basin wide deficit spending. To achieve a balance between
renewable supply and Year 2000 demand, we’ve got to find between 71,000 and 110,000 acrefeet of additional supply each year. Under Year 2000 conditions, compact deficits are expected
to occur three out of every five years, and increased water use in any sector requires a reduction
in water use in other sectors to avoid increasing debits.
This is a practical problem not just for each region, but for the basin as a whole. The study
analyzed potential water savings and alternative strategies in each of the regions’ water plans and
found cause for concern even if they accepted what seem to be over-ambitious assumptions built
into the plans about what kinds of savings are achievable. If all mutually-compatible strategy
alternatives were fully implemented and achieved their intended results, the risk of default could
be significantly reduced, but the study noted that implementing the joint alternatives proposed in
all of the plans would be challenging. Under more realistic assumptions, given the variations of
supply, a compact default doesn’t seem an unlikely prospect.
So the Upstream/Downstream project was intended to address this. Dialogue board members
who suggested it—and I will point to the mastermind, Elaine Hebard—viewed the problem as a
collective one for the three regions affected, realistically requiring collaboration among all
interested parties. The regions could choose to engage proactively in finding mutually acceptable
solutions, or risk ceding control of their water destiny to others. We hoped to initiate building a
community of shared knowledge and understanding among significant actors across the regions.
We hoped they would recognize their inter-dependence, how their attempts to achieve stable and
adequate supply for their own interests and jurisdictions needed to be seen in the context of the
basin as a whole, not simply, “We’ll get ours.” The idea here is sort of the idea of the Tragedy of
the Commons, that if each entity pursues its own self-interest, rationally as they might, the
ultimate effect could be ruin for all. So the Upstream/Downstream project focused on the
compact default threat as an impetus to collective action, but we saw it in a larger context as
well. The compact default threat is like the hammer hanging over our heads, but it’s also a
symbol and symptom of a deeper issue, which is the unsustainably of the current pattern of water
use in the basin.
The project consisted of three day-long workshops last summer, involving eighteen to twenty
individuals who were both public officials and advocates representing diverse interests and
concerns of each of the regions and the MRG Pueblos. The workshops were spaced about a
month apart to allow opportunity between the sessions for participants to confer with colleagues
in their regions, and to enable a wider community of interests first to reach a common
understanding of the problem, and second, to recommend solutions. There were also observers
and resources people who attended; they were seated behind the group at the table. They
participated when invited to but they did not take part in the deliberations of the representatives.
The workshops are discussed in this issue of the Dialogue, which you were able to get as you
checked in, and I would recommend this report to you because it really goes into a good bit of
The first day was devoted to getting on the same page. We tried through a number of
presentations and discussions to provide a common foundation of knowledge and understanding
of the water supply situation, and of the stresses of multiple demands on the system in the basin.
I think that worked very well, at least superficially. Participants all came out of that meeting
expressing appreciation of the new perspectives that they had on the basin problem—
perspectives they hadn’t had before—yet I think it was also hard from some to assimilate this
information in such a short time. Policy makers and water managers face huge institutional
constraints required to make sure that their jurisdictions get what they need, not that the basin
gets what it needs. So there’s still a ways to go to turn appreciation of the problem into action.
Secondly, as is typical of such processes, the second day involved a good deal of flailing around
and offering low-hanging fruit ideas for water savings that might solve the problems but hoping
to avoid hard choices for the basin. Some were frustrated that solutions requiring basin-level
cooperation weren’t really being seriously considered. To their credit, the importance of what
they were doing brought the participants back on day three, yet prospects for basin wide
solutions weren’t easily articulated, and although the scales of illusion seemed to fall from
people’s eyes, they weren’t able to agree on concrete steps for cooperation. What they did do,
though, was very important: they agreed to send representatives from each region to a smaller
group that Susan Kelley offered to convene at the Utton Center to develop a proposed scope of
work. We’ll hear more about that, but at this point, the other panelists are going to discuss the
workshop process from their own upstream, midstream and downstream perspectives.
Conci Bokum: I’m from the Jemez y Sangre Regional Water Planning Region, which is at the
top, and I want to start off by saying that in many ways, I’m very proud of our plan. We came up
with a whole bunch of alternatives to close the gap between supply and demand and what we
realized is that there were only four or five that would do that. The rest of them had to do with
being better, but they weren’t going to get at closing the gap. The several were water markets,
conservation, San Juan-Chama and growth management. What’s interesting about that list is that
the low-hanging fruit isn’t on there. All of these things are really hard, growth management in
particular. That’s the context. We were one of the groups who said we’ll go to another region to
solve our problem, but I think what we saw in that, and John alluded to it, is that in dealing with
water we all did the obvious thing: we dealt with the low hanging fruit.
What bringing the three regions together did was to make us recognize that’s no longer
enough—we’re going to have to start dealing with a lot harder issues, and some of them are at
the level of is it fair and right that we should go to Socorro/Sierra and even to the lower Rio
Grande and expect them to solve our water problem. Some way, we’re going to have to learn to
live with less water, and I think we’re getting to the point where a lot of what happened in this
workshop—not directly but indirectly—I think it became obvious that’s where we need to go.
One of the frustrations with the workshop was that it is so hard to do that, even if you’re willing
to think beyond the low hanging fruit. What are the answers? I do think there’s some flexibility
left, the hard things aren’t all that’s out there, but it was hard for all of us, recognizing we didn’t
understand what went beyond. It’s a scary feeling.
Elaine Hebard: I’m going to talk about the Middle Rio Grande regional water planning area as
opposed to the basin. That was one of the first things as a big group we hand to decide was to
delineate and define those kinds of terms. The Middle Rio Grande fairly early on—thanks to
Frank Titus and others who worked on the regional water budget—came forward and said, ‘We
have a deficit. We’re spending more, using more water than is being supplied on a renewable
basis.’ That was where we started, and so a lot of our tough discussions were either ‘How are we
going to bring in new supply?’ or ‘How are we going to reduce our uses so that they actually
balance what’s coming in?’ So in a sense, perhaps our region had to deal with what we’re now
dealing with in Upstream/Downstream. If you look at our 43 recommendations, they all focus
more or less on those issues.
When I went to the presentation by Papadopulos in December of 2004 [of the Water Supply
Study with the ‘carrot’] what I heard from the presenters was not only was the Middle Rio
Grande regional planning group in trouble, the entire basin had a deficit. That was very different
from the 2000 study that said we were breaking even. Everybody in the room sort of dropped
their jaws and went, ‘Uh oh.’ That was when the germ got into my head and said, “You know,
we’re going to have to talk to each other up and down stream to figure out how not to violate the
[I’m going to do a little advertisement here: Rolf has agreed, once again, to talk in April about
the Rio Grande Compact, so anybody who wants to, please come. The Water Assembly is going
to have another presentation on the compact because we think people need to understand—going
back to that education piece—need to be more and more educated about the basin’s constraints.]
So coming forward to Upstream/Downstream, here’s what I thought was really amazing. When
we were trying to balance our regional water budget, we were moving little slider bars around,
saying, ‘Okay, we can take water from Janet’s farm, and balance it over here, and if we take it
from some of those little birds and fishes, we’ll have more over here. And if we all conserve and
only take a shower once a week, we’ve got some more here. But it doesn’t do enough, so we’re
going to look downstream and take it from out of our region.’
When you’re just moving the slider buttons around, who cares? But [with
Upstream/Downstream] you’re suddenly face-to-face with real people, and you find yourself
thinking, ‘Uh, I’m not so sure I like this anymore.’ Looking at Peggy and some of the other folks
that came up from Socorro/Sierra, it was much harder to say, ‘We want to take 11,000 acres out
of production in Socorro County and move that water upstream to balance our budget.’ I think
that was one of the things that for my group was a real eye-opener: it’s not going to be very nice,
nor is it going to be very easy to do.
So how do we move from ‘my rights’ and ‘my interests’ to working together? That’s really,
really difficult. I thought we could do it in one workshop when I first made my suggestion! I
thought, ‘We’re all going to read this report and understand it.’ Well, after three workshops, we
didn’t finish, so I’m really happy that the Utton Center agreed to help us focus on a scope of
work so we can continue.
I would suggest we need to focus on those areas where we find commonalities. One of those is,
we do not want to violate the compact, so what could we do about the fluctuations that Rolf has
shown us? How are we going to deal with the variabilities, as well as the vulnerabilities, of
climate change? Food security and global warming impacts—the need to import food versus
raising it here—those kinds of issues, I think, can keep us at the table. So always keeping our
commonalities in mind as we work toward trying to balance the budget is really important.
The other thing I’m going to say is, just as we have issues between the regions, we have [issues
between] sub-regions in the Middle Rio Grande—the Rio Puerco and Rio Jemez. While the
MRG planning area has good data, the sub-regions do not. There’s an imbalance, when you want
to have these conversations on a straight scale, about how we’re going to work together. I think
we find that also with Socorro/Sierra. So within our own planning region, we have some of these
same points we need to be working on, as well as with upstream and downstream.
Peter Pino: Good afternoon. The reason I participated in the Upstream/Downstream workshops
is that essentially I wanted to make sure that the Pueblos and tribes were heard, because many
times, people don’t even know that we exist. I’m going to start with a question: how many of you
don’t know where Zia Pueblo is? Only three? I’m surprised. A lot of times when I pose that
question, more than half the people in the room raise their hands. Look at this map. Although
there are no identified entities, there are really fourteen Pueblos and tribes that are part of the
Middle Rio Grande area. Here’s San Ysidro, and Zia is here.
Native American Lands in the
MRG Planning Region
Source: All Indian Pueblo Council, Pueblo Office of Environmental Protection, digital data
acquired 12/99.
Acres within
Canoncito Reservation
Cochiti / Santo Domingo Joint Area
2,653.8 0.08
Cochiti Pueblo
Isleta Pueblo
Jemez Pueblo
Jicarilla Apache Reservation
Laguna Pueblo and Trust Lands 192,311.7
Navajo Reservation and Trust Lands
San Felipe / Santa Ana Joint Area
1,612.8 0.05
San Felipe Pueblo
San Felipe / Santo Domingo Joint Area 790.3 0.02
Sandia Pueblo
Santa Ana Pueblo
Santa Clara Pueblo
Santo Domingo Pueblo
Zia Pueblo and Trust Lands
% of
Total Indian Lands Acreage
Total Middle Rio Grande Water Planning Region
One of the first things that we did when we were looking at the Middle Rio Grande plan, was to
break out our sub-region. We are part of the Middle Rio Grande plan, but we also have a subregion plan that take in the Rio Puerco and Rio Jemez, and this plan was put together by
community people, people from Zia, people from Jemez, people from San Ysidro, Jemez
Springs, Ponderosa, Cuba, Regina, La Jara… So it’s local people, taking the interest to put a plan
together, because we felt we were a different breed of animal, a different breed than
Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, or Bernalillo. We insisted and came up against some resistance in
breaking out from the bigger Rio Grande, but we were able to do that and we take a lot of pride
in being able to do that for our region.
I wanted to come to the sessions so that we can continue to be heard. Putting something on paper
doesn’t assure you that you’ll be able to see the plans put into implementation, to be able to see
them from concept to completion. So we did participate in the three workshops, and I believe I
was the sole Pueblo representative, tribal representative, at those sessions.
And I heard the frustration and the complicated issues that we all have to face. We had a large
part of the Rio Grande to look at, but I took it back to the Jemez River: we went through the
same efforts and the same frustrations back some years ago, and essentially through that
frustration and that effort, we were able to come up with a shortage-sharing agreement between
the Pueblos and the non-Indian communities in the valley of the Jemez River. We did it without
any technical people; we didn’t have any mediators or facilitators to help us through this process.
The Utton Center and some other groups Lucy mentioned earlier felt that this was something that
should be showcased, so we did a video, about a twenty-minute video that has been shown at
different conferences. it’s something that we take a lot of pride in because it showcases the kind
of result you can have by communicating, by having dialogue.
So it was more of the same when I came to the workshops. I think it brings us together and gives
meaning to the word ‘dialogue.’ That’s what we all need. The title [of this panel] is “Dead End
or Model for the Future,” and I think it’s a model for the future. I think we need to continue to
talk. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be difficult.
I heard people saying this morning that it takes money, it takes money, it takes money. That’s
just one consideration. It takes all of us to truly believe, heart, mind, body and spirit; to have
spiritual and cultural values that we articulate into the plan, to be able to leave those concepts
and actually implement them. The power of prayer—sometimes we get joked about and laughed
at because we do corn dances and other rain dances. That’s not to be made fun of. That’s serious.
That’s who we are, and we can all, in our own way, say those prayers. Can somebody tell me
how much it costs to say a prayer? Zero, right? Can you imagine the power of those prayers if we
all say them in our own way, and stop laughing at the tribes and Pueblos when they do the
dances? That’s part of our culture.
Our pueblo was settled—a date given by Florence Holly Ellis—in 1200 A.D. We’ve been there
that long, and we’ve been able to conserve, we’ve been able to farm, we’ve been able to do what
our forefathers did all these many years. Then Albuquerque grew, and Rio Rancho grew and we
continue to face encroachments from the South. The valley people—the non-Indians and the
Pueblo people—used to consider ourselves maybe enemies. But because of the efforts in the
recent past for the Rio Jemez, we’ve become friends. We feel that we’re on the same side of the
street. Now we have to learn how to talk to Rio Rancho, and Rio Rancho has to learn how to talk
to us. Albuquerque as well.
The water table, the water bowl that’s underneath Rio Rancho and Albuquerque and Zia is all
one bowl. We don’t allow any car washing, any lawns, any trees to be watered. We do our part in
conserving. We all need to do that. We need to start addressing the ‘me’ and the ‘I’ in the
different statements that we make. We need to start talking about ‘we’ and ‘us.’ If we continue to
talk about ‘I’ and ‘me’, we’re going to get into the same situation that Iraq is in today. Those
people don’t value life. Those people are mad at each other because they’ve never been able to
communicate with each other.
Do we want that? I think not. There’s enough resources, if we can figure out a way to share
them, to be able to provide for generations yet unborn. We can’t grab all the gusto in our
lifetime—we have to leave something for those generations yet unborn. We owe it to them.
Nobody gave us the right to exploit all the resources that are available to us. We need to think
about the past, the present and the future.
So I think we can all learn from what the Dialogue is doing in trying to compare the plans and
documents from the three different regions. Let’s be respectful to one another. Let’s look at the
diversity of us as people and truly listen to one another. The state can’t do it by itself. The state is
us, members of the state of New Mexico, and it can’t dictate to us. We need to be part of the
solution, and I think that’s what we’re starting here. I encourage all of us to continue in that
effort. I know Indian people are people of a few words, and I’ve taken more than my five
Elaine Hebard: I had the great pleasure of facilitating the sub-regional water plan. At one point,
when we were talking about the public welfare statement, Peter came forward and said, “Gee,
you missed something: the spiritual and cultural value of water.” I looked up at the other
members of that group and asked, “Okay folks, what do you think?” We were meeting in San
Ysidro, and for those of you who may not know, San Ysidro is the patron saint of farmers. We
all said, “It’s not just tribal people who think about the religious and cultural aspects of water.”
The other thing I want to share is that Gilbert Sandoval, who is Peter’s cohort in regional
planning up there, said that once they did the tour together, walked up and down the ditches
together, and he realized that for Zia, it’s part of their culture and their religion and their life to
have water flowing down the river, how could he say that wasn’t important? Those kinds of
observations and being able to share with one another have really contributed to the [Rio Jemez]
shortage-sharing agreement.
Peggy Johnson: I’m just going to take a second because I think others have done a very good
job, and thank you Rolf for setting this up and framing the problem very well. Just a couple of
personal perspectives from Socorro-Sierra.
This was the first time ever that local decision makers at the county and city level in this region
ever engaged this topic. it was the first time that we had county commissioners, city council,
mayor, city utilities people in this region even sit at a table and talk about the topic. It totally
engaged them, on an individual, on a community, and on a regional level. From that perspective,
it was an amazing success, and one that I hope to be able to use as a springboard to revitalize
interest in water planning.
I think Elaine and I share the same common memory of that first day, wherein we looked at each
other across the table and she said, “And our plan’s preferred alternative is to dry up 11,000
acres of Socorro farmland.” The gasps went up all the way down the line! The county
commissioner almost fainted! I mean there was no idea, none, within our community that this
was afoot! There was shock, there was apprehension, there was outrage, there was all kinds of
rolling emotions at that table, and some of them still persist in our steering committee
discussions. They don’t last, and we get through them, and the dialogue is essential.
I would like also to reiterate the potential seriousness for our region and what keeps us at the
table: eleven thousand acres in Socorro County. The total amount of irrigated acres in Socorro
County? It’s not very easy to put your finger on that number. MRGCD is not terribly
cooperative. I know there are models out there that throw in numbers for the sake of modeling—
I don’t know what those are. Those things aren’t easily available to the public. As a default, if
you go back to U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers, the National Academy of Science
statistics for 2002, 12,373 irrigated acres in the entire county. When you talk about retiring
eleven thousand—or I thought I read in Chapter Nine, 12,500, more than exist—you see the
The consequences of that to a rural economy are devastating. The loss of the resource—this is a
resource management problem, and I maintain that it isn’t just a water resource management
problem; it is an agricultural resource management problem. Our agricultural lands, our soils, our
fertile bottomlands are what feed us, and if you take that and abandon it, it is an environmental, it
is a hydrologic, it is an economic, it is a social catastrophe. And it’s right here, right now.
If it weren’t for this effort [Upstream/Downstream] nothing would be happening. At least I feel
that while it’s still going on—and it is going on at a rapid rate, and locally we don’t understand
the magnitude of the problem because we don’t have access to the numbers to help us define the
magnitude of the problem, and until we have those tools, we’re at a loss as to what to do about
it—this dialogue is definitely a step in the right direction.
Susan Kelly: Rolf did a good job portraying the seriousness of the problem that the basin has. I
don’t think I need to reiterate that except to just reinforce a point that John Brown made: even if
you implement every single policy in all three of these plans, (which, as many of you with any
kind of planning background know, is very challenging!) even if you do that, we barely make
compact deliveries. And that’s with inconsistencies in the plans, which have been pointed out—
Socorro/Sierra’s relying on a certain amount and so is the Middle Rio Grande and so is [Jemez y
Sangre]. So we have a problem in a region of the state that’s critical to the entire state’s
economic well-being, population, we’ve got valuable agricultural property—it’s an important
When the three workshops ended, and I like the way Rolf characterized this: people started out
with this feeling of cooperation, and by the end, when they started seeing the difficulties in
resolving some of these issues, they retreated a bit into the corners. I think what we saw is one
way to keep it going is, “Let’s try to think of something that we can work on together.” So we
created a little sub-group with representatives from each region and we’ve met three times.
We’ve got one more meeting and then we’re going to go back to the larger group and see if we
can get buy-in to an approach to just take some baby steps together as a basin.
We’re trying to look for projects that wouldn’t necessarily be as well handled at the local or
regional level because we don’t want to step on toes there. We want to do things that are better
handled at a basin level so we’re trying to evaluate different conservation techniques. We’re
adamant that there be consistency in how the numbers are reported and that the hydrology of the
basin be consolidated, and that we use common terminology so we can compare progress on
implementations of the plans. Right now it takes you half an hour just to explain the issues with
the three plans because they were all done using different assumptions, etc. So that’s a starting
point. In order to even explain the situation we have to be able to get that cleared up.
So we’re starting with some baby steps, thinking that if we can achieve some things, achieve
some implementation towards these plans, it would establish some working relationships and
then we could move into some of these tougher issues. So that’s where we are at. A lot needs to
be done in regard to the water planning budgets, clearing up some of the uncertainties in some of
these terms. That kind of thing will help us all, regardless of whether we’re able to work together
on anything else. I think we are going to be able to find some things to work together on and be
able to, as a basin, ask for help that will support each of the regions in implementation of plan
policies, and that we’re going to make some progress.
John Brown: I have a couple more slides that present some thoughts about implications of the
Upstream/Downstream experience for other regions. In this late phase of the planning process,
major concerns are how to turn your plans into concerted actions by public officials. We have
sixteen plans now, but those plans are not necessarily consistent with what public officials or
jurisdictions have decided they’re going to do.
Implications for Planning
Broadly shared problem definition critical for relevant planning: shapes policy
o Scale (physical, political) affects definition, participants, and scope of action
o Enables parties to define their interests and what’s at stake
o Focuses range and types of solutions viewed as legitimate
Planning at more than one level requires coordination and consistency (local,
regional, inter-region, state) – idea of “nested” institutions
Role of science
o Can provide basis for common knowledge and understanding of physical
o Can’t provide “objective” answers to policy choices when pressed to draw
value-laden conclusions on basis of uncertain data.
Role of mediated dialogue in setting the “policy arena”
o Stakeholders include policymakers and advocates.
o Representatives of all relevant interests need to be at the table actively seeking
common ground.
o Need for sufficient time to develop mutual appreciation of underlying interests
and “core policy beliefs” of participants in their official roles.
[There’s some trouble with the computer, so the facilitator invites discussion instead.]
Paul Duran: I’m from the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Water Task Force, and also the Jemez y
Sangre council. One of the things I’ve been mulling over for the last year is, with the multitude
of entities, NGOs, state agencies and various agricultural organizations that deal with water, this
state still doesn’t coordinate these efforts. Some of you have heard this before, but I think one of
the things that would help would be a state water policy resources board that would include all
these entities and would coordinate efforts, and hopefully eliminate some of these problems by,
as Mr. Titus said, deciding what our real priorities are. Our real goals obviously include
sustainability. I’d like to have this panel’s opinions about doing a water policy board like many,
many other states do. New York has one, Colorado has one, California has one, but we do not.
We have an agency that deals with adjudication, we have one that deals with compact
obligations, another that deals with water quality, another that deals with watershed
management, and so on. I’d like your reactions to that proposal.
Conci Bokum: I don’t think this is the group you should ask that question of. I think the message
that comes out of this group, and the value that came out of what happened, is that [?] grassroots
[?] There wasn’t an agency above it; it was coming from below. Peter spoke very eloquently to
it: we’re the ones who are living in this region, we’re the ones that have this problem, and we
need to talk to each other, figure out how to recognize we can’t mess up another community just
to save our own. Those things happen at the local, personal level and there are all kinds of people
there. You might have gotten a great answer from a different group but I think this was the
wrong group.
John Brown: Paul, it’s an interesting question. There is a coordinating body on the regional water
plans and how they associate with the state water plan. It’s called—and has been for four years—
the Ad Hoc Committee. Maybe ad hoc expresses the problem with it; it was set up for a singular
purpose—to try to do that coordination early on—yet it’s still ad hoc. What might be learned at
the state level from the regions and from local entities and from grassroots organizations like the
Water Assembly or the Jemez y Sangre Planning Council or the Taos Steering Committee—what
might be learned is not—there is no institutional way for that to filter up into the state water plan.
And I think Conci is right: we are really bottom-up folks, but we would hope that policy would
somehow reflect those bottom-up perspectives. There needs to be a mechanism to do that and
you’re right, it doesn’t exist.
John Hawley: My question was one of procedures and it was just answered. I think in the final
panel, which will be the Lt. Governor, or one of her representatives, talking about the Year of
Water, and the ISC presentations following up, some of those issues will be answered. To me,
there’s a technical thing as a geologist—geologists are kind of like Mongo in Blazing Saddles:
they keep you chained up in the cellar and then when there’s something nasty, they bring you
out. The Bureau of Geology’s got a really great initiative to start characterizing the aquifers. We
need to do that. The only comment I have is that to me, the bottom-up approach is where the
rubber meets the road. We have to handle the state water plan in these river basin areas, where
what somebody does up in Española or Santa Fe, or Cochiti Pueblo, or Los Alamos affects
people downstream to Elephant Butte. And then stop there and figure that one out and go on.
Starting with Dave Gutzler this morning, “it’s the end of the world as we know it; I feel fine.”
Bob Wessely: I was trying to tie together this morning’s issues and this afternoon’s issues and
maybe even the later afternoon issues, and I’m hearing two pieces, one being how we can get
together and reconcile our differences. A lot of the Upstream/Downstream effort has been on
that. Another piece, though, is how can we do something about our commonalities? I’m really
keying off a lunchtime discussion with Rolf. We were saying, ‘What about the role of regional
planning in the state’s future?’ and what occurred to me was that when we were doing the
regional plans, the state was very supportive, financially and in an advisory way, technically
encouraging, providing pressure, all of the above. We got the plan accepted like we were
supposed to and the state evaporated. Then Rolf came back and said, ‘The buck doesn’t stop
here—it goes back to the legislature.’ And then he pointed out that this group, or
Upstream/Downstream, or both, could be a powerful lobbying entity to get something, or many
common useful things, done through the legislature. What I’m going to suggest when we get to
the Dialogue section is, let’s talk about what we can commission the Dialogue board to do on the
behalf of the hundred diverse people in this room, to get something useful done, to wake the
legislature up, to have a policy board, whatever. Let’s talk ‘What can we really do?’ rather than
‘What should be done if somebody does it for us?’
Simeon Herskovits: I have a question for any or all of the panelists, which is, what’s next? The
title of the panel is “Upstream/Downstream, Dead End or Model for the Future?” I don’t know if
other people feel differently, but what I’ve heard is a lot of positives about the
Upstream/Downstream project, but I only heard about the three workshops. What more is
coming or should come? To me, both the positive potential or feeling at the beginning, and the
latent tensions and misgivings and the difficulties of actually resolving the conflicts and
inconsistencies, seem to me like they would require a much more commitment and process to
systematically try and build trust and work through them.
Susan Kelly: Well that’s why we’re trying to develop a work description toward some next steps,
and why I described them as ‘baby steps’ because there’s a real tension between whether people
want to participate in this at a basin level. To some people at the table, or agencies or cities or
management organizations to think about working cooperatively as this large basin has the
potential to take away some of their individual aims. We’re trying to tread carefully by first just
trying to answer the questions, what is our hydrology situation as it relates to implementation of
these three plans. No one can argue with that. We have to know whether or not [we] are making
any progress on implementation. The regions have to be able to speak to each other because we
are in a common water basin. So that’s a no-brainer. The next steps, though, we think need to be
projects that are identified in all three plans, that somehow can work better if we do them
cooperatively. So that’s what the sub-group has been working on: looking for projects that can
show positive progress on implementation. And we feel that if we can come up with some of
those and have a success, then we’re starting to build a structure of working together
cooperatively. If we just dive in there and hit the hardest things right off the bat, we’re a little bit
worried that it’ll fall apart.
Peggy Johnson: At the end of the third workshop, we caucused in each of our regional groups
and had this discussion. Is this something that you want to continue with? Is this something that
you see a value in? The responses were mixed. There was a lot of positive feeling that we could
do something of value. There was also maybe the fear factor—what would happen if we didn’t,
if we just all went to our separate corners and business went on as usual. It wasn’t an option,
across the board. There were delegates who said they only wanted to continue if we talked about
a particular topic of interest to them. For Socorro/Sierra that was source-area protection for water
transfers. But it’s much easier to deal with those kinds of conflicts on a personal level, with a
smaller group that has broad expertise and a desire to work out the problems. So we thought we
that we could make more advances by going back, working in a small steering committee, and
then returning periodically to the larger delegation. We have hopes for that.
Elaine Hebard: But that’s not to say that those hard discussions are not going to get done. We
have to, ultimately. We have the sword of the compact hanging over our heads, and if we don’t
manage to reduce our consumption in some way, or find other supplies to make sure our regional
and basinwide budget is more in balance, then we actually run the risk of violating the compact,
but of jeopardizing the whole state. We have lessons from the Pecos, both in terms of violation
of the compact and what that mean to the folks that live there, and what it meant to the whole
state in terms of having to pay the fines, buy the water, and all of that. We have that lesson
already—we don’t need to re-learn it. Those discussions about how we’re going to work
together, whether you be the city or the pueblos, or the ag folks—they all say well, I have my
water, but you know, the river doesn’t have a water right, so how does that stay whole to keep us
whole? All of these ongoing discussions, while we might talk first about some smaller baby-step
projects, behind every one of those topics is that big umbrella, How are we going to reduce our
usage to fit within a sustainable and renewable supply?
Claudia Borchert: I work for the City of Santa Fe as a water planner. It seems as though
everyone points toward conservation as a win-win situation, and I know that we in Santa Fe
certainly have a strong record of conservation and continue to want to blaze forward and
continue to conserve water. Every time I try to understand the role of agricultural conservation,
which also seems like a win-win situation because you have both retention of a lifestyle of an
economic viability and less water for the same situation, I always get the pat answer, which is
that when you transfer water rights, you only get the consumptive use, which means that if you
were actually to use less water on the field, it doesn’t really translate to a water right. I want to
know the panel’s opinion on that because I personally don’t buy it. I think there are many ways
that agricultural efficiency could be looked at. I just want to know if that’s a potential area. Talk
about a win-win situation that’s not necessarily a baby step—that you could get all three regions
behind it to try to look at legality of it, how the mechanics of it could work, how the science of it
could work. Is it viable or should I just take that pat answer I get every time, “That won’t work.”
Conci Bokum: I’m going to speak generally and not necessarily for the group. I have for ten
years now been in discussions where we’ve come up against that position that Peter Kraai took a
long time ago in trying to analyze what happens to water in ag. It’s been ten years, and
everybody sort of expects that conversation to move forward and it hasn’t. I think the first step—
people aren’t talking to each other and educating each other about why that’s the position of the
ISC, what’s going on on the ground, what are the implications, and there are implications for the
compact. We need to have that conversation, and we run up against that question all the time.
Rolf Schmidt-Peterson: In regard to agricultural conservation, I would say that if you look at the
Middle Rio Grande over the last six years, there’s a HUGE example of very beneficial activities
in that regard that arguably were driven by Endangered Species Act lawsuits and then supported
through efforts of the ESA Collaborative Program and MRGCD. The MRGCD is now diverting
40% less water in a year than it did back in 2000 and the end result is that you get some
complaints from farmers about deliveries, but we’re working toward a much more managed
delivery process for farmers. One of the primary benefits of that from my perspective—looking
at the water supply situation and comparing it to the 1950s drought, in the 1950s with MRGCD
probably working in a similar manner to what they were before 2000, their storage water
supplies were in some cases exhausted by May 1. They were totally dependant on what came
down the river system from that time on, for the remainder of the year, and if you read their
board notes from the 40s and 50s, they were devastated; they were out of water. And even if they
got water in July, their crops were dead.
That hasn’t happened [since] and a big part of it, as a general statement, is that the water supply
has been stretched out so farmers have been able to get much more of a firm supply than they
would have under previous conditions. What conservation has done is had great benefits relative
to the silvery minnow, and it has had great benefits for the farmers. Could it be better? Yes. On
the other side though, with some of the conservation practices that are out there are focused on
increasing the consumptive use of the farm delivery requirement portion of the right. You have
the consumptive irrigation requirement, which is part of somebody’s right, and those
[conservation] practices then increase the consumption of water by the plants because you are
delivering water much more effectively, and from a compact perspective, all of a sudden by
supporting conservation, the farmer looks at it as, ‘We’re getting more crop so maybe this is
more beneficial to us,’ but in the end, you’re depleting more water. I think if you look at things
in isolation, that can happen, but we have to look at the big picture also, and on the Middle Rio
Grande they’ve been very successful.
Charlie Nylander: There was one aspect of the Upstream/Downstream process that I really do
think is a ‘model for the future.’ I was one of many people who were invited to sit in the back of
the room as a resource for the group. The model aspect is that we were not allowed really to
participate. We had to sit there for eight hours a day and listen. It was very hard, when I looked
at the group that was up and down the wall in my position. We had some fantastic
hydrogeologists and planners and engineers and lawyers and whatever. For all of them to just sit
there all day and listen when they’re used to talking a lot, that was a good thing. My personal
experience was that listening actively all day to everybody’s perspective—whether it was Peter
from a Native American perspective, or Janet from an agricultural perspective, or whatever—it
was very enlightening. It gave me pause to think about how I can really contribute to solving this
problem. I would drive home at night from Albuquerque, and I didn’t have an answer by the time
I got to Santa Fe. So this is a complex thing that you’re trying to do, but that aspect is a model,
and I think that whether it’s a group of experts, or it’s a group of decision makers, or its a group
of public, if you hook them in by inviting them and telling them to sit in the back of the room
and be quiet, you’ll get a lot out of that.