We can, must improve on flood irrigation to save water

Let me be perfectly clear up front: the farmers of the middle Rio Grande valley are the lifeblood of the community. From family farms to agribusiness, the farms of this valley formed who and what we are today, and we will forever be grateful for their life’s work.

Unfortunately, no family, business or person is perfect. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. Hopefully, we are close enough that the strong can compensate for the weak.

Much has been said recently regarding a comment I made before the Water Utility Authority Board. Plain and simple, I misspoke. I referenced that farmers are among the biggest water wasters in the valley. My intent was to say they are some of the largest water users in the valley based on their business and the type of irrigation used on crops, flood irrigation. This centuries-old form of irrigation using aquias and irrigation canals has been passed down through the generations.

No process is perfect, though. While new irrigation techniques and processes are being put into place every year, the fact remains, flood irrigation is not the most efficient. It is necessary for some crops, but without proper leveling, a sturdy and reliable delivery system, and the learned application of proper and timely irrigation, this process can be taxing to an already depleted water capacity.

My intent is an inquiry into available resources to the agricultural community to assist them in making the most efficient use of the scarce water supply available. It’s a question of how to educate the general public, as well as farmers, as to programs, financial assistance and knowledge that can be shared within our community of urban and agricultural water users, to help optimize water use. This is not just a farming issue or residential water-use issue; It is a community issue, where we all must share in the water problems we are facing.

In 2020, I, along with all commissioners, signed off on the Bernalillo County Water Conservation Plan. Within this plan is a section on agricultural water conservation incentive programs. The plan outlines education and outreach activities for the agricultural community and beyond. Please know I support the agricultural interests of this wonderful valley. Our farming community works hard to supply the basic food needs of people and animals alike. My job is to work side-by-side with all members of this community and help, as we all would like to be helped.

I will apologize to anyone my misguided words may have offended. However, I will not apologize for asking the tough questions and working hard to find solutions and better ways of protecting one of our dearest natural resources.

I look forward to working with anyone and everyone who shares in the desire to conserve water and build for our future and close with the words of President John F. Kennedy: “Our farmers deserve praise, not condemnation; and their efficiency should be cause for gratitude, not something for which they are penalized.”

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