Other Options for AWRM
The State Engineer must fairly distribute water in New Mexico. The tools are being put in place for Active Water Resource Management. However, there are other options for water rights administration, which include:
1) Shortage Sharing Agreements
Voluntary shortage sharing agreements are one way of extending limited water supplies during the drought. An agreement might be among multiple water right owners -- for example, between farmers, municipalities, businesses, Native Americans, and others – to share available water supplies under existing conditions. A shortage sharing agreement has worked successfully in the San Juan Basin, for example.
2) Rotation Agreements
Voluntary rotation agreements work when water users take turns using water, according to a set schedule that is agreed upon by all water users sharing a source. Agricultural communities have used rotation successfully on the Jemez River, where non-Indians and Pueblos share water supplies.
3) Water Banking
Water banking allows the expedited short-term or temporary reallocation of water, while still protecting the senior status of water rights holders. Pilot projects are planned to test the water banking concept where water can be transferred from an agriculture-to-agriculture use. If these pilot projects prove effective, the water banking concept could be expanded to assist municipal, industrial, recreational, and drinking water uses in addition to providing water for endangered species and compact delivery requirements, especially during periods of drought.
For example, with limited water supplies during the drought, if a farmer knows he may only have a marginal crop, he could opt to fallow some tracts and “bank” the water he does not use for other uses mentioned above for loan to another water user in need of water. The farmer would receive fair compensation for the lease of his water and would still retain his senior water rights status.