About the Draft 50-Year Water Plan

Draft Plan Coming Soon!

New Mexico must plan to protect water resources for future generations. Our state is one of the driest in the nation, with a highly variable water supply that is currently challenged by long-term drought, competing interests, ongoing litigation, and growing demand. Climate change is upending the historical trends on which water use practices and interstate water compact agreements are based and it will test New Mexico’s policies and infrastructure. Water supply will decrease as demand for existing water uses increases. Effective water planning, investment of resources, water rights protection processes, and water quality protection are essential.

The draft 50-Year Water Plan compiles findings from scientific papers and reports, guidance from planning and agency partners, and input from a wide array of stakeholders to describe and plan for climate change impacts to water supplies in New Mexico over the next 50 years. The draft 50-Year Water Plan assesses increasing aridity, outlines expected changes and likely vulnerabilities, and identifies recommendations for policy makers, stakeholders, and agency partners.

Throughout the western US, impacts from climate change mean less water will be available while demands continue to increase. Runoff and recharge are expected to decline by as much or more than 25% across the state. The average temperature in New Mexico is expected to rise by 5 to 7 degrees, leading to hotter and more severe droughts as well as decreased snowpack with earlier runoff leading to diminished stream flow.

Groundwater sources, many of which are already greatly diminished in quantity and quality, may see an increase in demand as surface water diminishes. Stress from climate change will also increase the amount of water needed to support vegetation and the natural landscape.

Water use in New Mexico is divided among agriculture, public water supply, reservoir evaporation, and industrial commercial mining and power generation.


Guided by the principles of stewardship, sustainability, and equity, and grounded in science, the 50-Year Water Plan aims to provide actionable steps for decision makers at all levels. These principles recognize the valuable contributions of natural processes, the needs of an uncertain future, and the commitment that solutions equitably serve all New Mexicans.

The draft 50-Year Water Plan was developed in partnership with scientific communities; Tribes, Pueblos, and Nations; acequia groups; state and federal agencies; and water users and advocates.

New Mexico 50-Year Water Plan Goals & Objectives

The primary goal of the 50-Year Water Plan is to help New Mexico plan for climate change impacts to water supplies. The Plan uses leading scientific information to analyze current and future water resource conditions and risk throughout the state, including increased temperature and aridity, decreased snowpack and runoff, and stress to groundwater and surface water resources. The 50-Year Water Plan is grounded in science and guided by the principles of stewardship, sustainability, and equity.

The objectives of the 50-Year Water Plan are to:

  • Identify projected impacts from climate change on the water resources of New Mexico
  • Evaluate vulnerabilities across the state
  • Engage with New Mexicans to learn about values, concerns, and possible strategies for adaptation
  • Develop goals to improve resilience over the 50-year planning horizon, and recommend specific action steps to improve New Mexico’s preparedness for climate change

Impacts to New Mexico's Water Resources from Climate Change, 2020-2070

The earth is warming in response to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, and this warming will result in greater aridity in many parts of the world, including New Mexico. These changes are affecting and will continue to affect virtually all aspects of New Mexico’s economy and lifestyles – agriculture, tourism, industry, energy, and recreation.

The Leap Ahead Report, developed by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources, compiles, assesses, and integrates existing peer-reviewed published research, technical reports, and datasets relevant to the broad topic of changes to New Mexico’s climate over the next 50 years and resultant impacts on water resources. It represents the scientific foundation upon which the NM50YWP has been developed. This section of the NM50YWP is an overview of the likely changes water resources New Mexico will experience between 2020 and 2070.

New Mexico's water future is drier and more variable.


Projected change in water stress by mid century (2040-2061) compared to historical average (1900-1970). Lindsey (2013).


Likely Changes Based on Peer-Reviewed Studies:


  • Average temperature rise of 5°- 7°F
  • Lower streamflow & aquifer recharge
  • Greater year-to-year variability in precipitation
  • Hotter, more severe droughts
  • Decreasing snowpack, earlier & diminishing runoff
  • Greater demands on groundwater due to surface water shortfall
  • Stress on natural vegetation caused by increasing temperature & decreased water availability
  • Increasing forest fire frequency resulting from heat & dryness
  • Increasing flooding & sediment transport due to more intense storm events & fires
  • Irreversible damage to soils through loss of vegetation & erosion
  • Degraded quality of surface waters


Assessing Water Resilience in New Mexico

Resilience is the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions and withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions. Continued warming and associated aridification will reduce water availability for all water demands. These changes leave natural systems at the greatest risk of total ecosystem collapse. Reductions in human water use will be needed to combat reduced water availability and the increasing demands of the environment.

The resilience assessment evaluated five sectors of water use: Upland Watershed Health, Recreation & Quality of Life, Agricultural Water, Public Water Systems, Industrial Commercial Mining & Power. Specific outreach was conducted for each use area to determine the relative existing resilience of each water use sector. This feedback is captured in public engagement appendix.

The resilience assessment identified elements of resilience by which communities can increase their resilience:



50-Year Water Plan Draft Recommendations

The 50-Year Water Plan recommendations are centered around the three guiding principles of stewardship, sustainability, and equity and include actionable steps for decision makers at all levels. Many of the recommendations are relevant to multiple, or all three, of the guiding principles.

  • Stewardship: For the 50-Year Water Plan, stewardship refers to the preservation, restoration, and monitoring of ecosystem health. The recommendations in this section start at the top of the watershed, move through lakes and rivers, and include groundwater health. Data collection, also included, is essential for understanding how these systems continue to change and respond to human impacts.

  • Sustainability: For the 50-Year Water Plan, sustainability refers to the human systems that need adaptation to address changing conditions. The recommendations in this section are focused specifically on aspects of water that managers have control over. Enacting changes to these systems is within our collective ability and is needed to adjust for projected conditions.

  • Equity: For the 50-Year Water Plan, equity recognizes that each person or community has different circumstances and values; allocation of resources and opportunities must ensure equitable outcomes. The recommendations in this section are intended to center equity in water use, water planning and management, and acknowledge the different ways water is valued.


Draft Plan Coming Soon!

New Mexico must plan to protect water resources for future generations. Our state is one of the driest in the nation, with a highly variable water supply that is currently challenged by long-term drought, competing interests, ongoing litigation, and growing demand. Climate change is upending the historical trends on which water use practices and interstate water compact agreements are based and it will test New Mexico’s policies and infrastructure. Water supply will decrease as demand for existing water uses increases. Effective water planning, investment of resources, water rights protection processes, and water quality protection are essential.

The draft 50-Year Water Plan compiles findings from scientific papers and reports, guidance from planning and agency partners, and input from a wide array of stakeholders to describe and plan for climate change impacts to water supplies in New Mexico over the next 50 years. The draft 50-Year Water Plan assesses increasing aridity, outlines expected changes and likely vulnerabilities, and identifies recommendations for policy makers, stakeholders, and agency partners.

Throughout the western US, impacts from climate change mean less water will be available while demands continue to increase. Runoff and recharge are expected to decline by as much or more than 25% across the state. The average temperature in New Mexico is expected to rise by 5 to 7 degrees, leading to hotter and more severe droughts as well as decreased snowpack with earlier runoff leading to diminished stream flow.

Groundwater sources, many of which are already greatly diminished in quantity and quality, may see an increase in demand as surface water diminishes. Stress from climate change will also increase the amount of water needed to support vegetation and the natural landscape.

Water use in New Mexico is divided among agriculture, public water supply, reservoir evaporation, and industrial commercial mining and power generation.


Guided by the principles of stewardship, sustainability, and equity, and grounded in science, the 50-Year Water Plan aims to provide actionable steps for decision makers at all levels. These principles recognize the valuable contributions of natural processes, the needs of an uncertain future, and the commitment that solutions equitably serve all New Mexicans.

The draft 50-Year Water Plan was developed in partnership with scientific communities; Tribes, Pueblos, and Nations; acequia groups; state and federal agencies; and water users and advocates.

New Mexico 50-Year Water Plan Goals & Objectives

The primary goal of the 50-Year Water Plan is to help New Mexico plan for climate change impacts to water supplies. The Plan uses leading scientific information to analyze current and future water resource conditions and risk throughout the state, including increased temperature and aridity, decreased snowpack and runoff, and stress to groundwater and surface water resources. The 50-Year Water Plan is grounded in science and guided by the principles of stewardship, sustainability, and equity.

The objectives of the 50-Year Water Plan are to:

  • Identify projected impacts from climate change on the water resources of New Mexico
  • Evaluate vulnerabilities across the state
  • Engage with New Mexicans to learn about values, concerns, and possible strategies for adaptation
  • Develop goals to improve resilience over the 50-year planning horizon, and recommend specific action steps to improve New Mexico’s preparedness for climate change

Impacts to New Mexico's Water Resources from Climate Change, 2020-2070

The earth is warming in response to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, and this warming will result in greater aridity in many parts of the world, including New Mexico. These changes are affecting and will continue to affect virtually all aspects of New Mexico’s economy and lifestyles – agriculture, tourism, industry, energy, and recreation.

The Leap Ahead Report, developed by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources, compiles, assesses, and integrates existing peer-reviewed published research, technical reports, and datasets relevant to the broad topic of changes to New Mexico’s climate over the next 50 years and resultant impacts on water resources. It represents the scientific foundation upon which the NM50YWP has been developed. This section of the NM50YWP is an overview of the likely changes water resources New Mexico will experience between 2020 and 2070.

New Mexico's water future is drier and more variable.


Projected change in water stress by mid century (2040-2061) compared to historical average (1900-1970). Lindsey (2013).


Likely Changes Based on Peer-Reviewed Studies:


  • Average temperature rise of 5°- 7°F
  • Lower streamflow & aquifer recharge
  • Greater year-to-year variability in precipitation
  • Hotter, more severe droughts
  • Decreasing snowpack, earlier & diminishing runoff
  • Greater demands on groundwater due to surface water shortfall
  • Stress on natural vegetation caused by increasing temperature & decreased water availability
  • Increasing forest fire frequency resulting from heat & dryness
  • Increasing flooding & sediment transport due to more intense storm events & fires
  • Irreversible damage to soils through loss of vegetation & erosion
  • Degraded quality of surface waters


Assessing Water Resilience in New Mexico

Resilience is the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions and withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions. Continued warming and associated aridification will reduce water availability for all water demands. These changes leave natural systems at the greatest risk of total ecosystem collapse. Reductions in human water use will be needed to combat reduced water availability and the increasing demands of the environment.

The resilience assessment evaluated five sectors of water use: Upland Watershed Health, Recreation & Quality of Life, Agricultural Water, Public Water Systems, Industrial Commercial Mining & Power. Specific outreach was conducted for each use area to determine the relative existing resilience of each water use sector. This feedback is captured in public engagement appendix.

The resilience assessment identified elements of resilience by which communities can increase their resilience:



50-Year Water Plan Draft Recommendations

The 50-Year Water Plan recommendations are centered around the three guiding principles of stewardship, sustainability, and equity and include actionable steps for decision makers at all levels. Many of the recommendations are relevant to multiple, or all three, of the guiding principles.

  • Stewardship: For the 50-Year Water Plan, stewardship refers to the preservation, restoration, and monitoring of ecosystem health. The recommendations in this section start at the top of the watershed, move through lakes and rivers, and include groundwater health. Data collection, also included, is essential for understanding how these systems continue to change and respond to human impacts.

  • Sustainability: For the 50-Year Water Plan, sustainability refers to the human systems that need adaptation to address changing conditions. The recommendations in this section are focused specifically on aspects of water that managers have control over. Enacting changes to these systems is within our collective ability and is needed to adjust for projected conditions.

  • Equity: For the 50-Year Water Plan, equity recognizes that each person or community has different circumstances and values; allocation of resources and opportunities must ensure equitable outcomes. The recommendations in this section are intended to center equity in water use, water planning and management, and acknowledge the different ways water is valued.


Ask Us a Question

Do you have a question about the 50-Year Water Plan? 

Questions submitted here will reviewed and answered by the Planning Program as soon as possible (typically 2 weeks).

loader image
Didn't receive confirmation?
Seems like you are already registered, please provide the password. Forgot your password? Create a new one now.
  • Where are the great talks by the scientists who wrote the leap ahead analysis? Those were wonderful.

    Stefi Weisburd asked 24 days ago

    We have uploaded the webinars given by the Leap Ahead scientists to a new project: The Leap Ahead Report