Report finds agriculture uses 80% of New Mexico’s fresh water

Source New Mexico image of Rio Grande
Spread the love

As climate change and drought make water an ever-scarcer commodity in New Mexico, a report last month by the non-governmental organization Food and Water WatchOpens in a new tab. found agriculture is using more than 80% of the state’s fresh water.

The report analyzed water use in the state and criticized dairies, alfalfa farming and pecan farming as, “egregious examples of water misuse.” It called on the state to deny permits for new or expanding dairy, alfalfa and pecan farms and to prioritize drinking water in times of shortage.

Professor Sam Fernald at New Mexico State University’s Water Resources Research Institute said there is no question New Mexico’s water is becoming scarcer and farming more difficult. First, hotter temperatures mean more evaporation so farmers need to irrigate more.

“It’s going to take up to 15% more water just to meet those crop needs,” he said.

Also, ongoing interstate negotiationsOpens in a new tab. may reduce the amount of water available. But he says farming can have ecological benefits as well as providing employment and preventing rural depopulation, and that it is not helpful to cast agriculture as a villain. Instead, his department is working on solutions.

“It may be possible to grow pistachios and make as much money as you would with pecans, but with less water use,” he said. “Using drip or sprinkler irrigation for crops is also effective.”

He added that research by Rolando FloresOpens in a new tab., dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences at NMSU, suggests even dairy farms can find efficiencies by reusing water, treating water onsite, and by being more efficient with food processing.

Image and article via Source New MexicoOpens in a new tab. Creative Commons.  Image description, “Currents grow stronger in the Rio Grande as the annual water release fills the river in 2023. (Photo by Corrie Boudreaux for Source NM).”

Source New Mexico

Source New Mexico is an independent, nonprofit news organization that shines a light on governments, policies and public officials so you get the information you need to make choices — about yourself, your family, your neighborhoods and communities. Through a lens of public health and equity, we’ll bring you original news reporting along with analysis and opinion. We’re your source for unflinching coverage of COVID response and health care, access to education, tribal affairs, climate change and industrial regulation, police accountability, criminal legal reform, the impacts of immigration policies and more from across the region. Source NM is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. Source NM retains full editorial independence.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Recent Posts

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Skip to content