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IMPROVING NEW MEXICO’S WATER MANAGEMENT - page 30 / 47

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do not receive water that year. What can a junior appropriator who needs water do? The simple

solution is to purchase senior water rights through a market exchange and no longer be junior.

Another short-term option is to lease temporary water through a local water exchange. This

ability to purchase water rights and transfer use is crucial. It establishes water rights as valuable

property. The transfer is contingent to a finding by the SEO that other water users are not

impaired – this can be generally accomplished if water transfer is limited to the amount of

original consumptive use.

Compact obligations often cause a great wringing of hands, but the concept of a compact

obligation is straightforward. Not all water in New Mexico’s rivers belongs to New Mexico. For

example of the approximately 1.06 million aft of water that flows on average into the Otowi

gauging station on the northern Rio Grande, 750,000 aft must be delivered to Elephant Butte

Reservoir for use by the “Texas” side of the compact and to Mexico by treaty. This leaves

approximately 300,000 aft of water for users in the Middle Rio Grande. One of the curiosities of

the Colorado-New Mexico-Texas compact is that more than 50% of water delivered to the Texas

side of the compact is actually used by New Mexicans in Elephant Butte Irrigation District.

Compact obligations are a fact of water, - no different than nature is variable in its supply. We

can only use the water that is there and legally ours.

In a dynamic economy, water uses and users change. Where there was originally an

agricultural based economy, over time the economy changes into urban and other uses. This is

certainly indicated by Table 10. At one time New Mexico was mostly an agricultural and mining

based economy. Now these sectors count for approximately 12% of total state product. This is

both progress and economic growth. But for this progress to continue new water users must be

able to bid and purchase existing water rights or groundwater permits. There is very little water

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