Democratic News

Opening Statement
 
Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing. 
 
The hearing will focus on two related subjects.  First, we will hear about the serious drought conditions that are now affecting New Mexico.  Despite receiving a little moisture over the past few days, the majority of the State is experiencing a severe drought that has impacted the State’s irrigation, municipal and environmental water supplies.  The current Drought Monitor maps indicate that no part of New Mexico is without impacts.  The southern third of the State is experiencing extreme drought conditions, having had little or no rainfall for several months.
 
Below normal precipitation and snowpack have resulted in flows in the Rio Grande that are forecast to be 39 percent of normal.  Irrigators will have to use more water from storage this year than otherwise expected.  Some municipalities, like the City of Las Vegas, will come close to using up a majority of their existing supplies.  Environmental flows will also be impacted because the natural flow in many of the State’s stream systems will be reduced. 
 
Challenges due to an increasing population, environmental demands and climate change are present even during more normal water years.  The drought conditions we are experiencing make the ongoing stresses even more difficult to manage.  The current drought provides an incentive for New Mexicans to continue the collaborative efforts that already exist in many basins.  For example, water users will have to work together with the Bureau of Reclamation this year to meet the flow requirements called for in the Biological Opinion for the endangered Silvery Minnow, and to ensure that the next Biological Opinion is sustainable. 
 
Communities throughout the State will need to continue to engage in water planning activities and water conservation efforts.  Cooperative efforts such as water banking and shortage sharing agreements will be essential tools to help communities maintain economic stability even in times of drought.  Maintaining cooperation between federal, state and local entities to address emergency situations like fires will continue to be very important. 
 
I am looking forward to hearing the testimony about the significant efforts underway to address the current drought situation. 
 
Our second panel of witnesses will focus on the important question of the impacts of climate change on water supplies and will highlight a report issued by the Bureau of Reclamation earlier this week in response to the SECURE Water Act that Congress enacted in 2009.  
 
This issue has been receiving increasing attention recently, in part due to shortage conditions on the Colorado River, but research has been ongoing for several years.  New Mexico’s National Laboratories and Universities are engaged in cutting edge science to help us better understand the potential effects of climate change on our water supplies and to learn how to better manage our existing resources.  For example, researchers at New Mexico State University are studying the resilience of the acequia communities to climate change, and at Sandia National Laboratory, scientists are collaborating on decision-support tools to enable water managers to make informed decisions about water uses in the face of uncertain futures. 
 
I am pleased that the Bureau of Reclamation completed the report required by the SECURE Water Act and am looking forward to hearing about the status of the science on climate change effects on water and potential adaptation measures that can be taken to mitigate against negative effects.  Even a quick look at the information to be presented today indicates that temperatures are rising and precipitation is decreasing.  The current conditions emphasize the need to support local and federal efforts to develop sustainable water supplies.
 
Thank you again to everyone who is here today and to our witnesses. 
 

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