An historic agreement has been reached in a dispute over water in the Rio Grande Project. It has taken 29 years in a process stagnated by several lawsuits to prepare an operating agreement negotiated between the Bureau of Reclamation, Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID), and the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1. No previous operating agreement has been signed by either of these districts. Rather, they have been complying with the Bureau’s requests and procedures on a yearly basis. In working to negotiate the new operating agreement, EBID used the “Managing for Excellence” report prepared by the Bureau of Reclamation to guide settlement discussions.
The Managing for Excellence Plan was created in response to a comprehensive report regarding the Bureau’s construction and infrastructure, prepared by the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences. Ultimately, the principles outlined in the Managing for Excellence report helped to develop an agreement which aims to increase transparency, cost effectiveness, and efficiency while allowing irrigation districts some independence in their operation. The agreement will also allow regional issues to be addressed and will allow for carryover of conserved water to be stored in project reservoirs on a yearly basis, promoting recreation and allowing upstream storage of water. The agreement is notable not only for resolving this long standing dispute, but also for establishing an interstate agreement between New Mexico and Texas, which could be used as a model for other states.
To read the full operating agreement visit http://ebid-nm.org/static/pdf/opag/opag.pdf.
To learn more about other water issues like this visit the Family Farm Alliance at http://www.familyfarmalliance.org/ and click on the Water Review Link.