The issue of water resource management in Grant County was the main topic of discussion at the February 6 meeting of the Food Policy Council.
Allyson Siwik, executive director of the Gila Resource Information Project (GRIP), discussed water resource issues in Planning Region 16 (Grant, Luna, Hidalgo and Catron counties) at the Council's February meeting.
The Council acts as an advisory group on agricultural and water issues to the Grant County Board of Commissioners. The Council has named "better understanding of water rights" as one of its three priorities for 2013.
Siwik noted there is no "ownership" of water in New Mexico: "It is considered a public good, however," she said, "and people have a right to use the water in beneficial ways as long as they follow state laws regarding water rights."
Currently, 87 percent of Planning Region 16's state water rights are used for agriculture, Siwik pointed out, while five to seven per cent are used for mining, and three percent are used for municipalities.
"Silver City's permitted water supply may not be sufficient to cover demand here between 2021 and 2043," Siwik reported, "and wells may need deepening as a result."
Siwik also reported "$50 million in water rights infrastructure is needed in Planning Region 16 alone."
Siwik will speak again at the March 6 meeting of the Food Policy Council specifically addressing water rights of small farm owners in Grant County. The public is invited to attend.
Also addressed at the February meeting of the Council were three food related legislative proposals for the 2013 session:
• House Bill 100 and Senate Bill 219 involve developing and promoting New Mexico Farmers Markets.
• Senate Bill 80 concerns promoting the use of local, fresh produce in school meals.
• House Bill 56 calls for a statewide cohesive food infrastructure to assist farmers and other "food entrepreneurs" to develop value-added food products and promote those to grocers, restaurants, festivals, and consumers in New Mexico and beyond.
In further Council business, the first copies of a Local Food Assessment Report for
Grant County was distributed. This information will also be discussed at the next Council meeting.
Composition of the Food Policy Council includes four new members: Ken Barr, owner of the Black Hawk Garden; Azima Forest, an active community volunteer and gardener; Sunny McFarren, former director of marketing and public relations for Gila Regional Medical Center; and John Song, Director of Research and Evaluation at HMS-CHI. Ongoing members include Marilyn Alcorn, executive director of Silver Adult Day Care; Alicia Edwards, executive director of The Volunteer Center and co-chair of the Council; Anthony Gutierrez, County Planner for Grant County; Sylvia Mendez-Lopez, nutritionist and herbalist and a part-time faculty member for Western New Mexico University; Carolyn Smith, community outreach coordinator for the Silver City Food Coop and co-chair of the Council; and Brandi Warhank, Women, Infant and Children's nutritionist for the New Mexico State Department of Health.