Who Wastes Water?

We at the Rio Grande Foundation have been critical of the Albuquerque-Bernalillo Water Authority’s ongoing takeover of the private New Mexico Utilities Inc. for some time now. Thus, I read with interest a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal which showed that while the private company pumped about 14.9 million gallons less water this year than it did last year, the government-run Water Authority pumped 3 million gallons more water than it did during the previous year. Worse, in the usual heavy-handed manner of government, the Water Authority has threatened to impose water restrictions on residents despite the fact that precipitation for the year is well above average.
Considering that one of the leading arguments for condemnation of the private water company has been and continues to be “conservation,” it would seem that we might want to sell off the government run authority to a private company rather than the other way around. This is especially true considering that customers of the private NM Utilities Inc. already use less water than their counterparts with the the government authority.
The whole debate about water conservation here in Albuquerque and in all of New Mexico’s cities is really just a tempest in a teapot anyway. After all, by even the most conservative estimates, agriculture uses 75 percent of New Mexico’s water. It would seem that if New Mexico is going to solve its water problems, we need to focus on making sure a real market for water exists so that water is allocated to those who are willing to pay for it.