New Mexico researchers study the impacts of drought, land


NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The lack of water in southeast New Mexico has farmers scrambling to come up with new ways to keep their land producing. Now, two researchers are teaming up to try and come up with a solution. It’s a $750,000 study to help southeastern counties in the high plains area find ways to utilize the shrinking water source.

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“They are pretty much dependent on groundwater for all their water needs, household, city, water systems and agriculture and they’re basically using it up faster than it is being replaced,” said Geoffrey Rawling, senior field geologist at New Mexico Tech.

All the crops in the southeastern part of the state are reliant on irrigation to water their crops. So right now, whether it is plants or crops or trees, they are not getting enough water. The three-year study from New Mexico State and New Mexico Tech will look at everything from taking advantage of the natural groundwater to possibly the best things to plant with the water they have available.

“We basically made some maps trying to estimate how much usable life is left in the aquifer, how much longer can they keep pumping water out of it,” Rawling said.

What has experts concerned about is that some areas of the high plains region have different life expectancies. Some ranging of five years of water, others 30 years. However, because of the drought that has affected parts of the Roosevelt, Curry, and Quay counties, it’s now the focus area of the study.

“Pump less water out of the ground. So I think a lot of the farmers people in the agriculture business are trying to do that and similarly, with the city of Clovis and Portales they encourage people to conserve water but ultimately I think they are going to have to find another source of water,” Rawling said.

One way researchers say that water could be brought to the area is through the controversial Ute Lake Pipeline Proposal that would essential pump water from the lake to the cities of Portales and Clovis but that plan has faced major pushback.

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