Time to listen:
Creating water plan, reaching compromise is essential for state

It might seem these days that there's not much to be thankful for in the public sphere of our lives.

The commonplace cynicism about politicians, the grotesque campaign bad-mouthing and talk show atrocities and the animal fear that's hard to shake in bad droughts and changing times sometimes make it impossible to see how lucky we really are.

Take the New Mexico Water Dialogue. Our good fortune here comes from the tireless efforts of an amazing number of our fellow citizens, and official advocates of New Mexico's water resources, all working together to make sense of the enormous complexities of water in the West and of New Mexico's water future.

Cynics will say that water runs uphill to money. But the Water Dialogue represents a vast planning effort, which understands that water runs downhill to the grass roots first. And if money gets in the way of the flow, the whole place withers.

The Water Dialogue is intimately involved with weaving together 16 regional water plans into a long-awaited state water plan this year.

The state water plan represents an exhausting 20-year effort that will be changed and updating as climate, growth and security needs evolve.

No one hears much about these regional plans, nor the Water Dialogue, and yet all of our futures depend on this kind of cooperative planning and communication.

We're accustomed to thinking of water as merely a commodity to be fought over between developers and farmers. But nothing's that simple.

Water in New Mexico is about the lives of millions of people, the businesses that provide jobs, the food we eat, the green space we cherish, the strength of local cultures, legal compacts with other states, sharing and conserving threatened resources, protecting species on the brink of extinction, snowpacks and river flows, the purity and quality of water in aquifers and the polluters and wasters and big companies that often use our water and leave it too dirty to drink.

Everyone has a vested interest in water. Oil may bring in tax revenues, but you can't drink oil or irrigate with it. There can be no winners and losers with water. And that's what the New Mexico Water Dialogue, and its hundreds of participants, understands. And I am deeply grateful for that.

In the fall 2007 edition of the Water Dialogue's publication, "Dialogue," writer and water authority Lisa Robert quotes Peter Pino, Zia Pueblo tribal administrator, as saying, "Nobody gave us the right to exploit all the resources that are available to us. We need to think about the past, the present, and the future. . . . Let's be respectful of one another. Let's look at the diversity of us as people and truly listen to one another. . . . The state is us, members of the state of New Mexico."

That says it all.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
November 23, 2007