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How New Mexico is learning to live with the megadrought

FILE - In this April 26, 2021, file photo, released by USDA Forest Service,  wildfire burns in the Lincoln National Forest in N.M.. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told firefighting personnel Thursday, May 13, 2021, to brace themselves for another challenging year given the historic drought conditions across much of the West. (USDA Forest Service via AP, File)
FILE - In this April 26, 2021, file photo, released by USDA Forest Service, wildfire burns in the Lincoln National Forest in N.M.. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told firefighting personnel Thursday, May 13, 2021, to brace themselves for another challenging year given the historic drought conditions across much of the West. (USDA Forest Service via AP, File)

The American West hasn’t seen a drought like the one its experiencing now in more than 1,200 years. In New Mexico, it’s fueled early, recording-breaking wildfires.

“When I first became State Engineer in 2003, we used to around 4 million acre feet of water a year,”  John D’Antonio, New Mexico’s former top water official, says.

“That was in the probably 2003 to 2012 time frame. I had a hiatus from the state engineer’s office. I came back in 2019. Over that time, we were actually diverting about a million acre feet less.”

Now, more than 90% of New Mexico is in extreme or exceptional drought.

“The severe drought is here to stay. You know, future projections, they show the water resources will decrease,” John D’Antonio says. “How do we keep things from getting worse?”

Today, On Point: How New Mexico is learning to live with the megadrought.

Guests

Mayor Louie Trujillo, mayor of Las Vegas, New Mexico, community of about 13,000 people located nearby the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires.

John D’Antonio, served as New Mexico’s top water official from 2003 to 2011 and again from 2019 to 2021 as the State Engineer. Co-owner and principal program director of American West Water Advisors

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.