The Santa Fe-based organization [Wild Earth Guardians] filed notice that it wants the New Mexico Court of Appeals to review a district judge’s refusal to force the Office of the State Engineer to prove that the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District is entitled to water it uses under permit.
“The appeal looks to compel the State Engineer to require the District actually prove it has used the large quantity of water it claimed upon receiving its permits from the State in 1925,” WildEarth Guardians said in a news release. “Despite the clear mandate under its permits, the District has long avoided confirming its use with the hope of continuing to control and divert the entire flow over the river in perpetuity.”
The district’s diversion of water from the Rio Grande for hundreds of farmers has been a source of contention, especially in dry years when the riverbed has gone mostly dry below the Albuquerque area, threatening the survival of species such as the Rio Grande silvery minnow…
“The days of water abundance are gone,” Jen Pelz of WildEarth Guardians said in a statement. “The reality of these times demands that the basic limitations on water use are met. Our litigation seeks just that, to enforce key provisions of state water law to safeguard and conserve water for our rivers.”
Wildfire smoke is creating a public health crisis. Last year, nearly every county in Montana was declared a disaster area. As wildfires raged, respiratory-related visits to emergency rooms spiked (“Montana’s tough summer,” HCN, 12/11/17). In Lolo, Montana, officials installed new air filters in schools to improve air quality. But without dedicated government programs to combat smoke, Western communities could be taxed by the impacts of future fire seasons, which are projected to worsen with climate change.
This year, scientists from Colorado State University and other institutions analyzed the situation and made a grim prediction. A study published in August in the journal GeoHealth estimates that the number of deaths related to wildfire smoke in the United States could be as high as 44,000 per year by 2100 — more than double the current rate of about 17,000 deaths per year. Even as humanity reins in similar pollution from industry and car emissions, climate change will further boost wildfires’ deadly smoke.
Carl Segerstrom is an editorial fellow at High Country News. Email him at email@example.com.