January 2, 2024 — The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is taking a significant step toward safeguarding the state’s precious water resources. They’ve asked the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) to review a new rule focused on reusing water, especially in light of the challenging droughts the state faces.
What’s the New Rule About?
The proposed rule, known as 20.6.8 NMAC Ground and Surface Water Protection – Supplemental Requirements for Water Reuse, is all about protecting New Mexico’s surface and groundwater. It’s not just about protection, though; it also encourages innovative ways to reuse water. This move is crucial as the state grapples with climate change and its impact on water availability. This rule is just the beginning. It sets the stage for more guidelines on how water can be reused in the future.
Focusing on Produced Water.
A key aspect of the rule is how it deals with ‘produced water’ from the oil and gas industry. ‘Produced water’ is the water that comes out during oil and gas extraction, and it’s usually pretty dirty. The rule explains how this water can be used in state projects, but with one big condition: it shouldn’t end up back in the state’s surface or groundwater. The rule also helps organizations that want to try out new water treatment technologies. It tells them how they can run their projects and share their findings with the Department.
The Rule’s Evolution.
In the Department’s December 28 news release, John Rhoderick, the Director of the Water Protection Division, highlighted the harsh reality of water scarcity in New Mexico. He stressed that taking action now to encourage new water recycling projects is crucial.
This rule didn’t just pop up overnight. It’s a result of the Produced Water Act passed in 2019. After its initial release for public comment, over 400 people shared their thoughts. NMED took all these comments seriously in shaping the final proposal. Now, it’s in the hands of the WQCC, which will set a hearing to discuss it further.
For anyone interested in the details or wanting to follow the rule’s progress, the NMED has a website with all the latest drafts, timelines, and updates. Visit NMED Water Reuse to learn more.