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IMPROVING NEW MEXICO’S WATER MANAGEMENT - page 36 / 47

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zone, will control salt build up. Eventually the salty component of the leaching fraction enters

the shallow aquifer. Using a series of drainage ditches, the salty return flow eventually makes it

back to the river. This leaching and return flow process has the advantage that it maintains crop

production, but with repeated diversions and return flows, salinity (often referred to as TDS)

builds up in the river. The Rio Grande enters the state with very low TDS (less than 250 ppm)

but exits the state with high TDS levels above 1000 ppm.

How would adjudication solve the overuse of our groundwater resources? Simply put

adjudicated rights will increase in value as the aquifers are depleted. It has always been cheaper

and easier to use groundwater for public and domestic use. But with increasing market prices on

scarce groundwater supplies, new users would consider obtaining surface water rights. Would

this not reduce the agricultural economy? True, there would be less acreage in production, but

since water right holders are typically the original farmers, the value of their water rights would

more than compensate for the reduction in crop or livestock income. Farmers would be wealthier

and the cities could grow with new - if not necessarily cheap water sources.

Water Adjudication would protect the Environment

The real loser in our water management policies are our rivers and riparian environment

because they lack any legal protection under state law. Ask any real estate agent in Albuquerque

what potential new residents think of the last remaining forest belt along the river in otherwise

desert ocean as they fly into the Albuquerque Sunport. The middle Rio Grande Bosque is a

narrow stretch of land between the flood levies that supports the natural cottonwood forest. A

curious footnote is that the state engineer does not consider the forest a beneficial use, but

MRGCD officials acknowledge that the trees provide a braking or energy absorbing cushion

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