Professor Fort Speaks on Water Issues at August Events

September 24, 2012

Denise Fort

Professor Denise Fort’s expertise in water law was in demand in August at two events. She was an invited presenter at the 57th Annual New Mexico Water Conference at New Mexico State University. This year's conference was titled, "Hard Choices: Adapting Policy and Management to Water Scarcity".

The staff of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (`77) invited her to present an environmental perspective on water scarcity. During her talk, Fort emphasized the need for federal support for river restoration and for limiting the federal role in funding large water projects.

"While seemingly inconsistent, river restoration provides a public good, and is especially appropriate because New Mexico rivers have been affected by federal construction projects," she said. "Water supply projects, in contrast, have private beneficiaries. Requiring project beneficiaries to pay reigns in some of the more extravagant and unnecessary water projects by returning responsibility to a local level."

Fort, director of the Utton Transboundary Resources Center, also testified at a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Sen. Jeff Bingaman convened the hearing to discuss the impacts of climate change in the inter-mountain West.

Fort directed her comments toward agriculture and ecosystems, pointing out that the term "drought" has become a misnomer for the change in climate the Southwest is experiencing.

"To use the term `drought’ or `variability’ is subtly misleading because the salient question is how a diminished and altered supply of water will be managed," she said. "If the operating assumption is that there will be a return to average flows, for example, one makes different decisions than if one acknowledges that the average is changing. The implications of a changed climate should be taken into account in federal farm policy and in federal water policy."

To read Fort's testimony in its entirety, click here.