December 13, 2023
The second annual New Mexico Water Leaders Workshop was held December 6–8 in the lower Rio Grande valley in and around Las Cruces. Hosted by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, the workshop brought together legislators, staff from state and federal resource management agencies, and others involved in water planning and policymaking in New Mexico.
“These workshops are primarily for water decision makers across the state to join together and learn about pressing water issues facing New Mexico, such as climate change, water deliveries and water quality, stormwater capture, and ongoing water litigation,” says Dr. Kate Leary, manager of the bureau’s Water Education Program and one of the workshop’s organizers. “The format is both classroom and field-based,” Leary says.
Each morning, attendees heard from a variety of invited speakers about topics like water permitting, the effects of climate change on New Mexico’s water resources, aquifer storage and management, and the ongoing Texas v. New Mexico water dispute.
Each afternoon, attendees toured sites up and down the lower Rio Grande, from Elephant Butte to the Mesilla Valley. “The field component of these workshops is really important,” says Leary. “It allows our attendees to see essential water infrastructure and other sites that they wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see.” At each field trip stop, attendees got to hear from many of the people involved in managing and protecting New Mexico’s water resources.
“Getting outside and discussing key water issues with the challenges right there to see—instead of just a presentation—is so critical,” Leary says. “We tend to think differently when we’re outside; we tend to be a bit more receptive to new information.”
A social hour each evening provided opportunities for networking and further discussions. Dinner on Thursday was marked by a keynote presentation from Dr. Rosario Sanchez, senior research scientist at the Texas Water Resources Institute and associate graduate faculty of the Water Management and Hydrological Science Program at Texas A&M University. Sanchez provided an illuminating presentation discussing some of the challenges of transboundary groundwater mapping and issues surrounding international water management.
Attendees left the workshop with a deeper understanding of the complexities, challenges, and opportunities facing water resources in the lower Rio Grande valley and in New Mexico in general. They also left with newly forged personal connections to water researchers and decision makers from across New Mexico. Next year’s Water Leaders Workshop will head north, and will be held May 22–24 at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.