- Associated Press - Thursday, June 12, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Tom Udall on Thursday introduced legislation calling for more funding and scientific research as New Mexico grapples with its fourth straight year of severe drought and increasing water scarcity.

The wide-ranging legislation is a result of a water conference Udall and New Mexico State University held in 2012 in which ranchers, farmers, irrigation managers and communities were brought together in hopes of finding new ways to stretch the state’s dwindling water supplies.

“Doing more with less is a challenge I know we can meet - but we have to work together,” Udall said in a statement. “Federal government resources for new water projects are increasingly scarce, but by being smart, flexible, and adaptive, we can manage the water we have and continue to grow and thrive.”

Udall says the purpose of the bill is to use available federal resources to help New Mexico become more efficient when it comes to water use.

The legislation calls for making as much as $100 million available for drought relief, which could include water exchanges between different districts, emergency pumping projects, activities to reduce demand and pilot projects for developing brackish water.

The bill would authorize $18 million to help irrigation districts make their systems more efficient and to install measuring devices that would clear the way for leasing programs.

Another $30 million would be used for a water-acquisition program in which voluntary sellers would provide water to benefit endangered species and river restoration around the state.

The measure also directs the National Academy of Sciences to study potential changes to reservoir management along the Rio Grande.

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