New Mexico’s Water Worries within a Changing Climate

Written by Juan Reynosa, Green For All Fellow 

Disponible en español. Available in Spanish.

Project Feed the Hood, a program of the Southwest Organizing Project, at the opening day of the International District Community Garden in Albuquerque, NM

Here in New Mexico it’s been an interesting past few years, climately speaking. We’ve witnessed a change in seasons, temperatures, and precipitation.  As these changes have become progressively more severe, so have their impacts. 

 

In the Southwest, even though we live in a dry climate, agriculture is a huge part of our livelihood and our culture.  We’ve learned from past generations and through indigenous practices how to work the land and preserve our water in the best way possible.  Through the use of Acequiea systems, a community-operated watercourse, and using seed saving practices, small farmers have been able to adapt to the change in climate. Yet, the impacts are still seen as one our key New Mexican crops, the green chilé, is now facing a shorter growing season as a result of the hotter temperatures that we’ve had.

It seems that we’re always facing a drought in New Mexico, the latest one is said to be in its third year and has been deemed as “record-setting.”  And with each year the same type of discussion about the drought pops up; our worries about water never seem to go away.  Here is a video Southwest Organizing Project recently produced with New Mexico farmers talking about this issue:

Our indigenous allies have their own set of water woes. “Water is life!” has been an ongoing slogan used by members of the Navajo and Hopi tribes as they fight against the coal-fired power plants located on reservation land, while also defending against greedy attempts by politicians to steal their water rights.

Coal plants use crazy amounts of water in order to produce electricity for places far away from where they are located.  Water is also used to transport the coal slurry once it is mined. Not only does the coal industry cause climate change and leave a path of destruction via air and water pollution, and coal extraction, but they are also taking away too much water that these indigenous, land-based people rely on to preserve their livestock, crops, native plants and trees, and culture.

In regards to coal, the water waste issue is at times overshadowed by the issue of pollution, yet I would argue that the large use of water by the coal industry is just as harmful locally as the pollution it causes.

And the list goes on. With the increase in the practice of fracking to produce oil here, there is a growing conversation about how the farming and ranching community in areas like Southern New Mexico will begin competing with the oil and gas industry over aquifer water as they have already begun doing in our neighboring state of Texas.

It’s an ongoing water struggle and, essentially, it’s one for survival.  But here in New Mexico, we’re accustomed to struggle, and it’s the resolve of our people here that has pulled us through challenges before.  So as we face climate change and the water challenges it brings, I have a strong feeling our people will face all of these challenges head on and fight back in order to preserve the way of life that we treasure so much.

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