Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pinin' fer The Big Green Tree That Ain't There

Keep a-movin’ Dan, he’s a Devil not a man and he cools the burning sand with water . . . cool, clear water.

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They turned on the Rio Grande the other day, a few days earlier by the calendar than last year.  And why not?  The upstream reservoirs  — we call them “lakes” here in New Mexico — are at 18% of capacity.  Last year at this time it was 11%.  They were playing beach volleyball on the river bed at this time last year. Travelers tell me they’ve had some significant rain up north where the run-off feeds into the river, which can only help matters.

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O, Dan and I with throats burned dry and souls that cry for water . . . cool, clear water.

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This is arid New Mexico’s worst drought since 1873.  It is our third consecutive year of severe drought. The southern half of New Mexico has been mostly devoid of precipitation. A little rain and snow fell over the western and northern high terrain and the central and northeast highlands earlier this month. More than 97% of the state is in “moderate to exceptional” drought. The drought is “severe to exceptional” over 86% of the state. One third of New Mexico is now suffering “extreme to exceptional” drought. There’s no relief in sight.

Water use restrictions, where they exist at all, are not very stringent in New Mexico. They’re mostly in the north of the state — which still gets a little rain and snow.   Here in the dry, dry south, Las Cruces imposes token use restrictions — but the golf course grass is still green.

Over all, this politically conservative state hasn’t much stomach for conservation.

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All day we trace the barren waste without the taste of water . . . cool, clear water.  

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The water flowing under the Fairacres bridge yesterday was neither cool nor clear.  It smelled bad. Lots of ugly flotsam.  The thirsty pecan groves and onion fields of the Mesilla Valley don’t care about cool or clear or flotsam.  All they care about is wet.

Someone opened the floodgates too wide up at the Caballa reservoir. River water appeared down here sooner than expected.  It flowed bank-to-bank yesterday — close to flood stage — where only a day before ORV jockeys had played silly games in the sand.  


We’re in debt to Mexico for its share of the Rio Grande.  An international commission meets often in a frantic effort to do the impossible: allocate too little water to too many users.

We’re luckier than most here in Dona Ana County, sitting atop a big aquifer.  But maybe our luck is running out, faster, even, then we realize.  You can still drill maybe  40 feet and get cool, clear water flowing from your well.  The water table is 35 feet below the surface.  Well drillers advise household users to drill 100 feet because the table top is sinking fast.  One big pecan grower just drilled 300 feet even though irrigation water has to travel only 200 feet to his grove. When, that is, there is any river water.

Meanwhile, all the pols in the pockets of the oil and gas extractors want to frack and drill for fossil fuels, a process that corrupts the dwindling water table.  Go figure!

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O Dan can’t you see that big green tree where the water’s runnin’ free . . .

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Along the Rio Grande, the “big green tree” is Russian salt cedar, a foreign invasive species that sucks up water at the expense of native plants.

When will we ever learn?

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