December 3, 2023

The fight between Texas and New Mexico over the management of one of North America’s longest rivers may be about to end as a trial date has been pushed back for pending negotiations aimed at settling a years-long case before the US Supreme Court. .

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Tuesday that a court-appointed special lord has cleared the way for ongoing negotiations and set a July date to update the situation.

The Supreme Court will have to approve any agreement the states reach. In the event of a deadlock, the trial will continue later this year.

“We’ve assembled the best legal and scientific team in the country to refute that our farmers and communities owe billions of dollars in damages to Texas, and we are now on the cusp of an exciting historic settlement agreement that will protect New Mexico’s waters for future generations,” Balderas said in a statement.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to questions about negotiations or a possible settlement.

The battle over the Rio Grande has become a multi-million dollar issue in a region where water supplies are dwindling due to increased demand coupled with droughts and rising temperatures caused by climate change.

The river across swathes of New Mexico has seen record low flows again this year, voluntarily resting some farmers in the fields to help the state meet downstream obligations under decades-old water-sharing agreements.

Texans have argued that pumping groundwater into southern New Mexico reduces the river’s flow and reduces the amount of water that makes it cross the border. New Mexico says its share of the river is in short supply.

The first phase of the trial was completed last fall, with testimony from farmers, hydrologists, irrigation managers and others. More technical certifications are expected to be part of the next phase.

A strong start to the monsoon gave the Rio Grande some relief after state and federal water directors warned that stretches of the river near Albuquerque will likely dry up this summer as a massive drought continues in New Mexico.

Tricia Snyder, interim director of the Wild Rivers Program for WildEarth Guardians Group, said policy makers need to fundamentally rethink how river systems are managed and assessed.

“Like many river basins across the American West, we are approaching a crisis point,” she said. “Climate change is casting a severe shadow over fissures in Western water management and policy and the unsustainable allocation of water included in it.”

Snyder and others said that the status quo has led to the exploitation of water resources in the West and that all users – from cities and industry to farmers and Native American tribes – will need a seat at the table during future discussions about how to live indoors. river means.

The latest federal map shows that about three-quarters of the western United States is dealing with some level of drought. That was less than three months ago. But federal agriculture officials reported Tuesday that weekly precipitation accumulations in several locations remain well below average.

In New Mexico, the driest areas were on the eastern side of the state, with total precipitation at 25% of normal or less. This affected cotton and hay crops, as well as herds of cattle and sheep.

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