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IMPROVING NEW MEXICO’S WATER MANAGEMENT - page 46 / 47

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VII. State and Federal Government Should Act to Protect Rivers and Riparian Habitat

The riparian or natural habitats (often called the Bosque) adjacent and in-stream to our

river systems are in immediate and extreme peril. It is not difficult to understand why this peril

exists. The habitats use water. New Mexico no longer has low cost new supplies of water to

satisfy existing uses and future growth. To obtain additional water, the easiest solution is to cut

down the trees, destroy the habitat and channel the rivers. Currently there is no protection at all

to prevent this from happening to the Bosque. Deforestation of the Bosque has already happen to

a large degree. The Rio Grande south of Elephant Butte to the Texas border is almost completely

devoid of original Bosque habitat. The Pecos is likewise completely devoid of trees except for

stands of invasive salt cedar. We predict the Las Cruces picture will represent our entire state

unless there is policy to stop this trend. There will be nothing natural about the rivers; they will

be lined ditches devoid of trees - running the reach of the state. We also predict that if we do

deplete our rivers of all natural riparian habitats, New Mexico will decline economically. Our

natural environment is one of our major selling points. We will have very little to sell if we give

this up

To protect the Bosque without harming other water users, the Bosque should be

recognized as a beneficial use and diversion. The SEO should declare the Bosque a beneficial

use in existence before human diversion and grant it a senior water right. The New Mexico

legislature can assist in the process by clarifying that instream riparian water use is beneficial.

Why would this not harm other water users? The Bosque in the middle Rio Grande currently

exists and is consumptively using 136,000 aft of water. The trees by their location and root

8 Evaluation of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District Irrigation System and Measurement Program, S.S. PAPADOPULOS & ASSOCIATES, INC. Boulder, Colorado, December 2002

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