Water is the mixture of two gases: hydrogen and oxygen. It is a vital solvent for human life.
Given that 70 percent of the body is water, it makes obvious sense that water is necessary for the human body to function properly, said Dr. Newton Hilliard, a chemistry professor at Eastern New Mexico University.
“Water is the solvent that makes all of the chemical and biochemical reactions occur in our cells,” he said. “It’s a major component of blood, so if you run out of it there, the blood no longer flows from heart and lungs out to the limbs.”
So the 73,000 residents of eastern New Mexico are in trouble. Because we’re running out of water.
Nobody knows for sure when the Ogallala Aquifer — the main source of water for much of the region — will no longer yield the liquid we need. But experts agree we could be facing a serious shortage by 2040, if not sooner.
Some lifelong farmers have already changed careers because they can’t afford to dig wells any deeper. If the trend continues and area agribusiness goes out of business, then what becomes of those who sell goods and services to the farmers and ranchers and dairy operators?
A pipeline from Ute Lake in Quay County could extend the life of the aquifer by a century or more. But that cost is $212 million — that’s a little less than $3,000 for every man, woman and child in the area just to build the thing.
On Tuesday, Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico begins a four-part series we call “The Liquid of Life.”
The project began last summer when newspaper representatives sat down with some of the area’s leading authorities on water. We sought their input on issues from conservation to pollution to government intervention.
Since then, associates from the Portales News-Tribune, the Quay County Sun in Tucumcari and the Clovis News Journal have conducted more than 100 interviews, gleaned information from dozens of Web sites and public documents, and settled on 18 stories, assorted photos and graphics that we hope will give readers insight into our communities’ futures.
We hope this project helps everyone think about and make the best decisions on water matters in the crucial years ahead.
— David Stevens, Editor
Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico