Susan Kelly Leads Utton Center as Interim Director

Interim Director Susan Kelly Susan Kelly has become interim director of the Utton Transboundary Resources Center at the UNM School of Law. As director, she works with all of the major water institutions in New Mexico – nonprofit, federal and state, along with UNM law students on projects related to water rights.

She joined the Utton Center in 2003 as associate director and became interim director in July 2009. She now leads the center in its mission to provide innovative means to water resource stakeholders to resolve conflicts and to encourage collaboration in managing the resource.

Kelly is involved with all of the center’s projects, some of which are listed here:

  • Water Matters! — An annual publication primarily for New Mexico legislators with articles on current water issues that put the issues in a broad context and provide background on how the issues have evolved.
  • Land and Water Connection — An ongoing project which is exploring the nexus between land use and availability of water and looking at improved processes.
  • Upstream Downstream — A project intended to integrate some aspects of three regions to address existing and projected deficits of Middle Rio Grande water.
  • Model Water Code — This project is being developed with Dividing the Waters and proposes to have water experts compare Western states’ water laws to a state-of-the-art water code.
  • Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program – This program addresses water supply, science and habitat restoration in the Middle Rio Grande so that progress can be made in the recovery of endangered species while not impairing water rights and use.
  • U.S./Mexico border issues. Kelly represents the State of New Mexico on the Water Work Table of the New Mexico/Chihuahua Border Commission.

Kelly, with co-author Geoff Klise, wrote "How Science Can Provide Pathways to Solutions — The Technical Toolbox", published in the 2007 New Mexico Tech Decision-Makers Field Guide. In 2009, she wrote "Urban Water Administration in the Albuquerque Urban Area" and moderated the New Mexico Tech Decision-Makers conference.

As a follow-up to an earlier symposium on the reservoirs along the Rio Grande, Kelly organized a special edition of the Natural Resources Journal (Summer 2007, Vol. 47, No. 3) that was devoted to the laws and policies of the Rio Grande reservoirs in New Mexico. Her article, "Modeling Reservoir Storage Scenarios by Consensus", was included in that edition.

Kelly earned her B.A. in 1977 from Arizona State University and her J.D. in 1981 from the UNM School of Law. She is a member of New Mexico State Bar Association, Natural Resources Section, the American Planning Association and the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Prior to joining the Utton Center in 2003, she was the water rights manager for the City of Albuquerque, where she managed the city’s water rights portfolio, including the acquisition and transfer of water rights and administration of the city’s well permits and water storage contracts. She was part of a team implementing the city’s future water strategy, including surface water diversion and non-potable water permitting. She also represented the city in regional and statewide water resource planning projects.

Kelly worked in community and regional planning for eight years, including policy development and infrastructure capital planning. In private practice, she primarily dealt with real estate and business clients. She occasionally serves as an arbitrator for New Mexico’s Second Judicial District Court, hearing small claims as referred by the court.