Staff shortages are a top priority for water conservationists in upcoming legislative session

By: - October 11, 2023 4:05 am

The Rio Grande in Southern New Mexico. (Photo by Jeanette DeDios for Source NM)

New Mexico’s next legislative session is just around the corner, with lawmakers setting their eyes on the state’s budgetary needs and wants in January.

to lawmakers and state agencies like the departments of Energy Minerals and Natural Resources and Agriculture, some 16 different conservation organizations are highlighting the dire need for adequate staff funding to ensure current and future state investments in water conservation are utilized to their full potential.

Zoe Barker is the lands and water advocate for Conservation Voters New Mexico. Specifically, she wants to see the state start to modernize its water policies.

“Because most of it was built in the 20th century, and we haven’t had continuous funding to move us into the 21st century, and for them to get adequate and professional staff that can do that,” she said.

Though, Barker acknowledged that this isn’t a unique problem.

“This is not just specific to water,” she said. “This is specific to a lot of state agencies, when they don’t have the staff to actually put that money on the ground, they don’t use it.”

Other than taking aim at staffing, conservationists also want state lawmakers to fund recommendations made by the newly formed New Mexico Water Policy and Infrastructure Task Force to address the lack of programs, technology, and resources in state water agencies.

With estimated state revenues ticking up to $12.611 billion for the 2024 fiscal year, the letter also asks the state to reinvest that cash into recurring appropriations to fund water initiatives and infrastructure, rather than the common one-time payments made in the past.

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