New Mexico’s congressional delegation sponsors drought relief legislation

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation are sponsoring two landmark bills, which they hope will keep the water running.

“I think that the most important thing to say about them is they will provide the tools and resources to help our communities have water for generations to come,” U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat representing New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, said in a virtual news conference Thursday.

She was joined by U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican representing New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, and U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat representing the 3rd Congressional District.

The trio is working together to sponsor drought relief legislation.

The first proposal is known as the Water Data Act, which would create a national framework for using, sharing and collecting information that can help with water quality issues, drought and flooding.

It would also direct federal agencies that collect water data to work together and form partnerships with local governments, farmers, ranchers, and utility companies. It’s something that lawmakers say is needed.

“Much of the data right now, it’s difficult to understand,” Herrell said. “It’s hard to find, so this will bring us the tools we need.”

Leger Fernandez said the information could also help communities access the long-term impacts of wildfires on land and crops.

“It’s this kind of legislation that will help us get the data that we need to say what will the impact be on such a large fire on all those areas that feed, in this case, into the Pecos,” she said.

The second piece of legislation is the Rio Grande Water Security Act. If enacted into law, it would establish a long-term water resource management plan to help meet the water needs of communities along the Rio Grande, as well as restore the vast iconic river.

Additionally, the law would create a working group tasked with coming up with recommendations to strengthen the infrastructure, conserve water and build partnerships throughout the basin to meet water needs.

“This bill will help to bring a coordinated response to drought and water security throughout the entire 1900 miles of the river and help put those tools into the hands of our communities,” Stansbury said.

She added that New Mexico U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján support both bills.

Both pieces of legislation are scheduled to be heard by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Wednesday.

Stansbury said the House is expected to take the measures up June 16.