SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – How do you help farmers thrive in a state like New Mexico that’s always stuck in a drought? That’s the question state universities want to answer. They’re asking the legislature to pass Senate Bill 72 that would make New Mexico a hub for farming and drought research. The Senate Conservation Committee heard from Senator William Soules on Thursday and New Mexico universities to explain how this dryland resilience center could benefit the state and students.

“This would set up the center for dry land resilience. As a center it would have the potential to become the world center for how you manage lands when water is scarce,” said Sen. Soules (D-Las Cruces).

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The state bill is asking for almost $15 million over a four-year period to build a statewide monitoring network. The money would be spent over five years. The collaboration between New Mexico State University, New Mexico Tech, the University of New Mexico, and Eastern New Mexico University. They want to focus on studying drylands and how to develop resilience strategies to sustain water.

Experts say New Mexico is the perfect place to do this. They also say this would aide in the state climate strategy and brings jobs to students and the people of New Mexico. “It would also support the state clinical strategy with job training, data and model development as well because one of the things that is missing out of the climate strategy is in-state expertise on building these models so that we can understand what the future trajectories of change are in the state,” said Dr. Lara Prihodko, NMSU college associate professor.

The committee voted unanimously to pass the bill, it now heads to the Senate Finance Committee. Experts also say they will be studying how water from rivers like the Rio Grande could play a factor in changing how the drylands could receive water. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Soules hopes New Mexico can be a worldwide hub for drought resiliency research. He says this could be a huge economic benefit for the state.