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IMPROVING NEW MEXICO’S WATER MANAGEMENT

PROFESSOR DENISE D. FORT

UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO SCHOOL OF LAW

PROFESSOR TOM MCGUCKIN

NEW MEXICO STATE UNIVERSITY

July 5, 2003

I. Introduction

This paper reviews several measures that New Mexico should pursue to improve its

management of water. The crisis in New Mexico’s water affects all of the citizens of the state,

but hasty responses may promise more than they can deliver. In this paper we present several

measures that will allow better use of the resources that the state has, and rectify imbalances in

how water has been managed in the state.

Many observers credit New Mexico with an excellent body of water law. This law can

allocate our scarce water resources among competing uses so as to promote economic growth

and environmental sustainability. With the establishment of protections for riparian areas and

instream flows, the state can also protect its public trust in its rivers. New Mexico has enough

water to promote economic growth, maintain agriculture, and protect the environment. In order

for our water law to be an effective part of the state’s institutional framework, water rights must

be determined. The majority of surface water users in New Mexico do not have adjudicated

water rights. Economic mechanisms have given the nation a powerful economy, in which goods

are delivered to purchasers in a timely fashion. Without better defined ownership rights, our

ability to transfer water is unduly hampered by high transaction costs.

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