Few issues in New Mexico are as contentious as water, or as complicated. This is no secret to New Mexico legislators, who struggle with water-related legislation nearly every year. To help them understand the myriad water issues that come before them during the legislative session, the Utton Transboundary Resources Center provides each legislator with a copy of Water Matters!
The handy reference provides easy-to-digest details on basic water law and policy and summaries of select water projects, studies and settlements. It includes maps to illustrate areas of particular interest to lawmakers.
“The purpose is to put water issues in a broad non-biased context and provide background on how they have evolved,” says Susan Kelly, interim director of the Utton Center and editor of Water Matters! “The papers are overviews and are not intended to substitute for legislative analysis, but they are written for all legislators, not just those who focus on water law and policy.”
The project came about during an oral history interview with former State Rep. Joe Stell, whose expertise was in water. Motivated by his comment that he considered it his duty to help new lawmakers understand the complexities of water law and related issues that come before the Legislature, the Utton Center got to work.
The first issue of Water Matters! came out in 2007 and has been updated every year since.
“We respond to what’s going on every year,” says Kelly. “For example, if something new comes up in this year’s session, we will include it in next year’s workbook.”
The workbook has become so popular, every year it is in demand by water professionals, bill analysts and the UNM Water Resources Program.