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New Mexico lawmakers float bipartisan water bills

The Rio Grande near its headwaters in southern Colorado on April 1, 2021.
Mitch Tobin
The Water Desk
The Rio Grande near its headwaters in southern Colorado on April 1, 2021.

News brief

New Mexico's congressional delegation Thursday announced the introduction of two bipartisan water bills as historic drought and wildfire grip the Southwest. Introduced by Rep. Melanie Stansbury, the bills aim to improve water data nationally and facilitate better water management across the Rio Grande Basin.

The "Water Data Act" proposes a national framework to centralize water data, such as precipitation, water quality and soil moisture, in order to improve decision making. This information can be a boon to farmers, ranchers and other big water users.

"Much of the data right now — the information is difficult to find, it's hard to understand. So this will bring us the tools we need to integrate the information ... while we're facing the biggest challenges like drought, flooding, and other water management issues,” said New Mexico Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican.

As New Mexico fights the largest fire in its history. New Mexico Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández added that more accessible and reliable water data can help experts anticipate how fires will impact watersheds.

Herrell and Leger Fernández are co-sponsoring the bill along with colleagues in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and other states.

The lawmakers also announced the "Rio Grande Water Security Act," designed to bring more coordination and resources to aid the river's federal, state and tribal stakeholders.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do is bring an integrated approach where everyone has a seat at the table, where we’re looking at the river comprehensively and coming up with a 30-year plan for the river,” Stansbury said.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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