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Catching up with Water Wonk Adrian Oglesby

HydroIllogicalCycleWhiskey may be for drinking but here in the middle valley, water is for growing. And this year we may actually have water thanks to some epic spring rains brought to us care of El Nino. For our local food producers, water is key to economic success. The Ag Collaborative (AC) checked in this month with Utton Center Director and MRGCD Board Member Adrian Oglesby to find out what’s up.

AC:  You have recently been named Director of the Utton Center at the University of the NM School of Law. What are some of your goals in this position?

AO—The Utton Center has had some amazing directors, beginning with Al Utton himself, who was a beloved and well respected international law professor specializing in transboundary aquifers.  My focus will be more central to New Mexico’s needs, providing educational resources to the community on Western water law, and the impacts of water law and policy on rural economic development.

AC:  With all the spring rains, can we let down our guard on water conservation?

AO—While the drought appears to be lessening (only 12% of the State is currently classified as in Severe Drought) the rainfall we’ve been experiencing was considered “normal” only a few years ago. We’re likely to see more rainfall this year but our definition of “normal” is shifting. The new normal is less precipitation. The hydro-illogical model says it all.

AC:  What about water harvesting? We hear we can, we should and then we hear we can’t because of water delivery compacts. What’s the scoop?

AO—This is a very complex issue and one that hasn’t been fully resolved in New Mexico. It is true that we have water compacts with Texas and downstream users. To complicate matters, the US EPA has asked us to integrate water catchment mechanisms into our storm water drainage plans, a move that the NM Interstate Stream Commission just voiced concern over as it limits the amount of water we can deliver. More than residential rain barrels, this ambiguous policy makes it difficult for green builders to design large commercial developments with water savings components. It may be some time before we have a clear policy on water harvesting.

AC:  What about grey water? When is it safe and how can/should it be used?

AO—Grey water is really a water quality issue. The NM Environment Department allows up to 250 gallons of grey water per day without a permit.

AC:  You are also a board member for the MRGCD. What’s new?

AO—I am very pleased to be working with a new Chief Engineer Mike Hamman. Mike comes to us from the Bureau of Reclamation, he’s been involved in river restoration issues for many years, he’s worked for the Interstate Stream Commission, and he’s a Taos native. He’s been doing some strategic planning with the staff and has worked well with the board. Also, the election on June 2nd of new Board members will bring new ideas and energy to the Board. The best news is that the District will have water to deliver this year as the rains did allow for some long needed water storage.

View this and other ag news in the June issue of Local Food Connections >

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