Although the article is right to say that "overselling" water can destroy communities (and I agree -- that's why my All-in Auction leaves rights with the farmers), it misses an even bigger problem, i.e., that the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) appears to be allowing farmers to sell their diversionary quantities to cities. That's a big problem, and I left this comment:
This article is missing a HUGE element, namely a discussion of the difference between diversion rights and consumption rights. If a farmer diverts 10AF of water, 2-3AF mayBottom Line: I am all in favor of selling water, but the buyer must use the water in the same way as the seller. If not, hydrological adjustments to the rights are necessary. They may be expensive, but failure to make adjustments will destroy the market, those who participate in it, and innocent bystanders.
evaporatebe used, but the rest returns to the river. If that same farmer sells 10AF to a city, the groundwater is NOT recharged, reducing flow in the river and available water for all. I sure hope that OSE is taking these differences into account. If not, the river will be dry long before “all” the rights are sold.
Addendum: I found this in the NM OSE's regulations [PDF]: "For applications proposing to change the purpose of use, only the consumptive use established and available at the move-from location may be considered for transfer to the new purpose of use." Although the article did not mention consumptive vs. diversionary use, it appears that the OSE is only allowing diversions equal to consumptive use. Good.
Addendum 2: After an email exchange from the author of the article, I learn that farmers in Middle Rio Grande area (as discussed in the story) are allowed to divert 3AF/acre of land they possess. If/when they want to transfer their diversionary rights, the OSE decides how many acres are really being irrigated (i.e., excluding buildings, fallowed land, etc.) and then allows 2.1AF/acre of "consumptive use" to be sold. The obvious problem with this 2.1AF/acre figure is that it's an estimate of actual use. Which brings me back to my original point: If sales of water exceed consumed water (because less than 2.1AF/acre are actually consumed before the transfer), then the sales are removing "too much" water from the area.
Another concern that matters, no matter how much water is exported, is the reduction of water within irrigation systems, i.e., "the cumulative impact [reduction] on head pressure and the like — that they all benefit when there's more water in the ditch because it flows faster and more efficiently."
hattip to CC