Priority administration refers to the temporary curtailment of junior water rights in times of shortage, so that more senior water rights can be served by the available water supply. Having senior water rights means the first water users to “put the water to beneficial use” in our state. Under the state constitution, the senior water rights have priority over junior water rights.
In New Mexico, the more senior water right holders typically include Native Americans, acequias, and agricultural water users. Junior water right holders typically include municipalities, as well as industrial, residential, and recreational water users.
All water users need to be actively involved in the problem-solving process during periods of shortages and to identify other options in response to drought. A “priority call” -- the mechanism for priority administration -- should be a measure of last resort.