SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO (Wednesday, May 2, 2018) – Today, Audubon New Mexico and Western Resource Advocates released a report offering affordable water conservation and efficiency solutions to help Deming, Southwest New Mexico’s largest community, meet future water needs, save tens of millions of dollars in capital improvements and protect the state’s crown jewel, the Gila River.
Proposed water diversions from the river could be catastrophic to Important Bird Areas, the river’s health, and its uniqueness as the state’s (and one of the West’s) last great free-flowing rivers. The solutions proposed in the report would help build resiliency to drought, safeguard birds, and protect the Gila River—a sacred and culturally irreplaceable natural landscape in our state.
“As the ancestral people of this land, we strongly believe that the water of this region should be conserved to protect the valuable tribal cultural resources that originated on these territories,” said Ft. Sill Apache (formerly known as the Chiricahua-Warm Springs Apache) Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous. “The report’s solutions would allow our children and future generations the opportunity to understand and appreciate the bounty and beauty of their cultural heritage and aboriginal homelands.”
The report details proven, environmentally friendly water supply strategies that, if enacted, would help Deming meet its long-term water demands and would result in significant savings to Deming taxpayers.
“To address the water challenges that face New Mexico, we must explore all available options― especially those which will stabilize sustainable surface and groundwater use,” said U.S. Senator Tom Udall (NM). “Given our limited resources, we must make sure we utilize the funding provided by the Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA) as wisely as possible and in a manner that will assure the best return on investment. With smart resource management, we can provide long-term water security for these counties. I appreciate the detailed work of this assessment to present thoughtful options to policymakers in southwestern New Mexico on how we can best secure our water future, and I hope these recommendations help inform our work going forward."
The increasing pressures on our rivers and aquifers have put our natural world and the quality of life for rural and urban communities in a perilous situation. “We are faced with a finite and shrinking water supply as climate change reduces stream flow and growing populations pump groundwater faster than it can be replenished. A secure water future requires innovative solutions and unprecedented collaboration,” said Jon Hayes, executive director of Audubon New Mexico. “The report’s solutions are a no-brainer, providing abundant drinking water for Deming’s families while maintaining a free-flowing Gila River.”
The report outlines how Deming and Luna County can secure a sustainable water supply beyond 2060 by investing tens of millions of dollars of current AWSA funds in:
- Sustainable groundwater management of the Mimbres Basin aquifer
- Water conservation and water leak detection and repair
- Water reuse
- Transfer of existing city-owned agricultural water rights to municipal use (as planned by the city)
“Importing water from the Gila River to meet the demands of Deming is like using Leonardo da Vinci paintings to build a fire to cook your meal,” said Jorge Figueroa, author of the report and consultant to Western Resource Advocates. “Smarter and cheaper options exist. A sustained and long-term investment in water conservation is the most cost effective and reliable source of new water for the region, and is one that protects the Gila River.”
The headwaters of the Gila River make up the largest complex of mountain wilderness in North America south of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The area is renowned for its wilderness values, abundant fish and wildlife, and endless recreation opportunities. The Gila River also harbors some of the greatest breeding bird diversity and density in the United States, including raptors, and riparian-dependent birds like the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Gila Woodpecker, and Bell’s Vireo.
Click here, to read the full report and click here for the companion public outreach brief. To learn more about Audubon’s Western Water Initiative, please visit www.audubon.org/westernwater.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.
Audubon New Mexico: As the state office of the National Audubon Society, Audubon New Mexico’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.
About Western Resources Advocates
Western Resource Advocates works to protect the West’s land, air, and water so that our communities thrive in balance with nature. WRA’s team of scientists, lawyers, and economists craft and implement innovative solutions to the most complex natural resource challenges in the region. For more information visit: www.westernresourceadvocates.org and follow us on Twitter @WRADV.
Alana Moriarty, Audubon New Mexico Media Relations, 505-983-4609, firstname.lastname@example.org