Why NM Legislators Should Vote for HB 248
Summary: Sponsored by Rep. Susan Herrera, HB 248 creates a trust fund to assist mutual domestic water consumer associations (MDWCA) -- typically small rural and small-town systems, as alternatives to wells and septic fields. Many MDWCAs suffer from aging infrastructure, increased regulation, difficulty finding certified water operators, and aging volunteer boards. In tribal regions and southwestern New Mexico there are programs to help, such as the Tribal Infrastructure Fund and the Las Colonias fund. This bill seeks to extend similar help to areas not covered by existing arrangements.
History: New Mexico created the Mutual Domestic Water Association as a legal form in 1947 (in the Sanitary Projects Act); many were formed in the following years, which is one reason so many of them now have physical plants nearing the end of their expected lifetime. And in the meantime, requirements and regulation have increased. The Tribal Infrastructure Fund, created in 2005, has assisted water associations in tribal lands; the Las Colonias Infrastructure Fund, created in 2010, has been effective in assisting water associations near the southern border.
Why This Legislation Is Good for New Mexico
- Clean drinking water is essential for everyone, but particularly so for children and infants. The Sanitary Projects Act of 1947 was passed in part to address high infant mortality in rural areas.
- Increased population density makes reliance on wells and septic fields untenable; water systems are essential to providing drinking water and to treating wastewater.
- The regulatory requirements for water systems have risen over time; the consequence is that it can be difficult for volunteer organizations to manage the paperwork or arrange proper planning for necessary maintenance or system upgrades. Financial support for planning projects can make a huge difference.
- Deferred maintenance raises overall costs; the longer water associations must wait to find funding for needed work, the more the citizens of New Mexico will pay.
- The need for work on water systems is tied more tightly to demographic trends than to economic conditions; creating a trust fund for water systems will help stabilize funding across economic cycles and allow more consistent, more rational expenditures.
New Mexico Rural Water Association