Strategic Water Reserve
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Legislative & Implementation Update
Legislation to create a Strategic River Reserve was initially introduced in the 2004 legislative session, where it was expanded to include groundwater and renamed the Strategic Water Reserve. This bill passed the state House 47-6, but ran out of time as it awaited a hearing on the Senate floor in the final hours of the session.
In 2005, Think New Mexico brought the legislation back with the unanimous endorsement of the Interim Water & Natural Resources Committee and the strong support of Governor Richardson, who called for it in his 2005 State of the State address. This time the Strategic Water Reserve legislation passed the House 58-9, the Senate 40-0, and received $2.8 million in initial funding.
In 2006, the Legislature and Governor appropriated an additional $2 million for the Reserve. Another $2 million was added in 2014, but unfortunately much of that funding was diverted to other state needs during the difficult budget year of 2017. Think New Mexico is continuing to work to ensure the continued funding and effective implementation of the Strategic Water Reserve throughout the state. Read our 2018 opinion editorial here.
In 2019, Think New Mexico advocated for House Bill 281 and Senate Bill 277, which would have appropriated $5 million in funding to the Strategic Water Reserve. While these bills did not pass, the legislature did include $242,000 for the Strategic Water Reserve in Senate Bill 536. In 2020, another $750,535 was appropriated for the Strategic Water Reserve in House Bill 349. In 2022, the state budget included $500,000 to lease 20,000 acrefeet from the Jicarilla Apache Nation for the Strategic Water Reserve.
In 2023, the Strategic Water Reserve received its largest appropriation to date: $7.5 million in the budget bill (House Bill 2), along with an additional $150,000 in the supplemental appropriations bill, Senate Bill 192.
For more information on the implementation and current status of the Strategic Water Reserve, please visit the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission’s webpage dedicated to the initiative.
New Mexico’s rivers have always been the lifeblood of our state’s communities. Today those rivers are increasingly threatened by the colliding forces of drought, population growth, and the competing demands of the federal government and bordering states.
In late 2003, Think New Mexico launched a campaign to improve the state’s river management policies by creating a Strategic River Reserve: a pool of publicly held water rights dedicated to keeping New Mexico’s rivers flowing to meet the needs of river-dependent endangered species and fulfill our water delivery obligations to other states.
This Reserve will avert expensive lawsuits over endangered species and interstate river compacts. It will also protect and restore the many benefits flowing rivers provide to the state’s people and communities. Ultimately, it will give New Mexico a tool to achieve a sensible and sustainable water policy by balancing water use between cities, industry, agriculture, and our rivers.
Read an article from the Farmington Daily Times and an update from the Albuquerque Journal about the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the Nature Conservancy using the Strategic Water Reserve to put 20,000 acre-feet of water back in the San Juan River • November 20, 2020; January 21, 2022
Read Think New Mexico’s 2018 opinion editorial about the Strategic Water Reserve • May 13, 2018
Read Land Letter article on the Strategic River Reserve • January 25, 2007
Listen to KUNM Report on the Year of Water • December 1, 2006 (mp3, 7:27)
Read Water Policy Report article on the Strategic River Reserve • April 18, 2005
Read Santa Fe New Mexican editorial in support of the Strategic Water Reserve • February 4, 2005
Read Albuquerque Tribune editorial in support of the Strategic Water Reserve • December 28, 2004
Read Think New Mexico’s opinion editorial about the Strategic Water Reserve • December 23, 2004
Read Santa Fe New Mexican editorial in support of the Strategic Water Reserve • January 19, 2004
Read Farmington Daily Times editorial in support of the Strategic Water Reserve • December 3, 2003
Read Albuquerque Journal editorial on Think New Mexico’s Strategic Water Reserve initiative • December 2, 2003