Local farmers demand more water, protest management

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hundreds of farmers ditched the fields and hit the road in their tractors for a protest Monday.

Protesters traveled from the Isleta Resort and Casino to the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District offices on 2nd Street. The convoy spanned nearly a mile long, mostly consisting of customers who all agree on one thing.

“We’re paying taxes. Like, if we’re getting all our water, I think we’re just giving money to the conservancy and not getting our water,” farmer Mike Silva said.

Farmers, like Silva, are done paying more for less water. Because water delivery has been cut down, they say it takes longer to irrigate crops.

“We’re long money, and that’s what we live with,” Silva said.

State Sen. Joshua Sanchez and his family even joined the convoy. Since the district had to cut water delivery to 80%, he saw a drastic drop in his crops of pinto beans and watermelons.

“How is the river almost overflowing, and we have no water in our ditches for our local farmers to irrigate?” Sanchez said.

However, MRGCD CEO Jason Casuga says an overflow of water is going to farmers.

“While we have this much water, the district’s diverting for demand. We’re trying to route it around the system as efficiently as we can,” Casuga said.

The district serves more than 60,000 acres and Casuga says aging infrastructure is another reason they can’t meet the water demand.

That’s why they’re proposing a mill levy increase.

“All of that money is meant to help increase our ability to maintain and upgrade infrastructure,” Casuga said.

They say these improvements would efficiently bring much-needed water to farmers.

“We need better management from the top to the bottom,” Silva said.