Climate change could lead to worsening water scarcity in New Mexico, and state officials hope they can plan for hotter, drier decades.

Earlier this month, state officials led by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources and the Interstate Creek Commission released a draft analysis as part of its plan on the water over 50 years, aimed at identifying impacts on the state’s water supply and strategies to conserve and maintain resources.

Along with the draft’s publication on September 16, the state opened a public comment period to solicit public comments on the report, with October 15 being the deadline for comments submitted.

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The report compiled existing research on New Mexico’s future climate change impacts on its water resources, intended to provide a basis for future water planning by agencies across the state.

It is in response to a directive from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham that the state is finding ways to ensure the sustainability of its water resources for the next half century.

“The guiding principle is that the state chart a course that will allow more flexibility in the management of water supplies and infrastructure in the face of extreme weather conditions brought on by a changing climate,” reads the announcement from the Bureau of the publication of the draft plan.

“The governor has long recognized the importance of water to the arid state. As the Governor pointed out, the pillars of the Five-Year Water Plan are stewardship, equity and sustainability.

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Here are the key takeaways from the State’s 50-Year Water Report.

The future: warmer and drier

New Mexico has shown a “clear and pronounced” warming trend, according to the report, resulting in decades of drought.

While the report admitted some shortcomings and unpredictability in precipitation, it signaled with “certainty” that temperatures would rise.

The report predicted that spring would become increasingly drier, potentially pushing back the summer monsoon on which the state relies for much of its moisture.

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Less humidity could also mean smaller accumulations of snow in the mountains of northern New Mexico, which melt and feed rivers statewide, as well as drier soil and vegetation leading to wildfires. Forest.

“Evidence derived from the model’s projections suggests a high probability of a continuous increase in temperature associated with pronounced variability in precipitation,” the report says. “Episodic droughts, when they do occur, will become much more severe as temperatures rise. “

To mitigate the expected increasing aridity in New Mexico, the report says government policy changes are needed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions known to impact climate change.

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“New Mexico is expected to become hotter and more arid over the next 50 years, due to man-made climate change,” the report said.

“A strong and long-standing scientific consensus from these reports indicates that New Mexico should forecast a warmer and more arid climate, with a rate of change dependent on global policy to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. tight. “

Climate change will impact New Mexico’s ‘water balance’

Water for human consumption in New Mexico comes exclusively from precipitation and snowfall, the report says, which means more arid conditions could reduce availability to people for necessary purposes such as recreational uses. and industrial.

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About 95 million acre-feet per year comes from precipitation such as rain, according to the report, while about 96 percent or about 92 million acre-feet is lost through evaporation or released by vegetation via a process. known as sweating.

This means that only about 3.4%, about 3.2 million acres of feet are left on the surface as runoff or to recharge aquifers and rivers.

Surface water supplies will become increasingly sensitive to climate change due to the small portion of its available water that remains.

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“Small changes in the water balance of the earth’s surface can therefore have a major impact on human society,” the report says.

Continuing changes in New Mexico’s climate could impact vegetation

More frequent forest deaths and intensifying wildfires have been sparked recently by changes in New Mexico’s climate as it moves to warmer and drier conditions, the report says.

Changes in vegetation can impact ecosystems and hydrology statewide, read the report, causing changes in the water available to people in every region of New Mexico.

Available water, temperature and sunshine were the main factors defined in the report that impact vegetation productivity.

“The ongoing regional climate change towards warmer temperatures and more severe droughts therefore threatens vegetation types sensitive to warmer and drier conditions,” the report said.

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-618-7631, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.


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