Future Of Snow And Water In A Changing Climate: Water Outlook

Fall on the Rio Chama. Photo by Sage Faulkner

Chama Peak Land Alliance 

Recently, during New Mexico’s legislative session, State Engineer Mike Hamman explained to committee members that snowpack looks bleak for the state as a whole amid continuing drought conditions.  (Montoya Bryan, S. 2022, Jan 25. More Fields Could Go Unplanted Under New Mexico Water Plan, Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com/2464345/more-fields-could-go-unplanted-under-new-mexico-water-plan.html

What does this mean for farmers, landowners, recreationalists and others along the Rio Chama?  For some, getting paid to leave fields unplanted may be an option.  For others, looking at more drought resistant methods and ways of being resilient are quickly becoming a new piece of their strategic management plan. 

Recent winter storms indicate that 2022 may be more similar to 2021 for water users. While 2021 saw a lot of shortages, in a lot of systems, it may simply be a more common representation of what irrigators will face going forward. The challenge for users, and those involved in Rio Chama Congreso, will be to focus on conservation and ways to be to become resilient as the area adjusts to a forecast with less water in the future.    

“The challenge for farmers in the headwaters, is that they are the first to get water restrictions.  Water is such an important issue, and there are benefits to irrigation like the recharging of aquifers, that are not acknowledged,” said Donald Martinez, Rio Arriba Cooperative Extension Services Agricultural Agent.  “It is important, he says, for farmers and land stewards to be included in the decision making.”

Martinez also says it is equally important for the landowners and stakeholders to know what is happening both locally and statewide and attending the Rio Chama Congreso webinar will help folks gather current information. 

The Rio Chama Congreso virtual webinar will be held Feb. 25. Mr. Hamman will discuss the current water outlook with Rio Chama Congreso attendees.  Registration to the event is free for interested individuals and information may be found at: www.sanjuanchama.org 

The Rio Chama Congreso is the San Juan – Chama Watershed Partnership’s capstone event in partnership with Rio Grande  Restoration. The Partnership is open to anyone with an interest in the health of the ecosystem in the Rio Chama Watershed  including the basins that feed the Rio Chama from across the Continental Divide via the San Juan-Chama Diversion.