EBID Response to State 50 Year Water Plan

Gary Esslinger
July 15, 2021

The Governor has tasked the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission with producing a 50 year water plan. Here in southern New Mexico, Elephant Butte Irrigation District is already decades into implementing most of the measures discussed in the plan. From Caballo Reservoir at the head of the District, through canals and drains, across  miles of farmland, the District’s members and employees have implemented smart water management, sustainability, and equity. It is through these efforts that our agricultural communities continue to thrive, producing food, feed, and fiber for New Mexico and beyond.

Natural aridity, extended drought, and climate change are nothing new to the District and residents of southern New Mexico. Planning ahead began long ago by monitoring everything from water use and delivery to irrigation efficiencies and stormwater runoff, and, among many other measures, through installing state of the art remote telemetry to collect data provided free to the public via SCADA Director Patrick Lopez. The District’s groundwater specialist, Dr. Erek Fuchs, works to study the region’s aquifers, then his research is put to practical use in plans and methods for remediating depletions in the aquifer. These plans can then be used to implement operational changes or help EBID qualify for grants to bring about structural and other efficiency improvements.

The legal and water management requirements within EBID are complicated and shaped by these obligations and requirements. “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting” is often heard in discussions about water rights and their appropriate use. New Mexico has been no exception. The District and its agricultural producer members began planning and implementing water stewardship measures over 100years ago and continue to this day. Their planning and other actions have continuously proven to be successful water management techniques.

When New Mexico’s 50-Year Water Plan was first enacted in 1987, EBID was one of the first to submit and receive acceptance of their regional plan. The District began studying and implementing sustainable improvement and conservation programs long ago and continues to develop new approaches and methods.

More than 30 years later, EBID is still working, not just to plan, but to implement projects in fulfillment of both legal obligations and the driving need to conserve and protect water resources during frequent regional droughts. Through infrastructure, legal protections, and proactive management,  the District works proactively to increase the system’s resiliency, serving the needs of southern New Mexico’s agricultural producers now and in the highly uncertain future.

- Gary Esslinger - EBID Treasurer-Manager


Photo Caption: Patrick Lopez and Adam Carrejo collect gravity readings from an EBID groundwater monitoring well using a ZLS Gravity Meter.  EBID will use this data to track change in storage of the aquifer at different points of the year.