Water initiative refused grant

Staff report

Clovis Mayor David Lansford may have lost the first round of his water conservation plan, but it hasn’t drained him of hope it might someday become reality.

Lansford confirmed his group, the New Mexico Ogallala Preservation and Conservation Initiative, didn’t get a $20 million federal grant needed to start the program. Lansford said he and others involved with the effort have a conference call scheduled today to try and find out why they didn’t get the funds.

“We aren’t going to be defeated just because of this,” Lansford said.

Lansford’s plan called for paying local farmers, ranchers and other landowners not to irrigate. The goal was to preserve the only source of fresh water for the area, the Ogallala Aquifer.

Current demands are outstripping the aquifer’s ability to replenish itself. Various state and federal studies have determined about 90 percent of water withdrawn from the aquifer is used by agriculture.

Lansford said his initiative would complement efforts by the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority to complete the estimated $550 million Ute Water Project. That project would pipe fresh water from the Ute Reservoir in Logan to Clovis, Portales and other area communities.

Estimates vary from at least 10 to 15 years before the Ute project is completed. It, too, is largely depending on state and federal grants for funding.

Lansford said the conference call today is with Debbie Hughes, executive director of the New Mexico Association of Conservation District, an umbrella group assisting conservation districts in obtaining grants from the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Hughes should be able to elaborate on why the application was rejected, according to Lansford.

Several efforts by the CNJ to reach Hughes for comment weren’t successful.

“I don’t know at this point what our alternatives are, if any,” said Lansford. “We may have to rethink our strategy and press on. It’s definitely a worthwhile exercise.”