Monthly Archives: October 2013

El Agua No Se Vende: Protecting Community Water Rights in New Mexico

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The acequias of New Mexico offer a valuable approach to conserving shared water resources. Since colonial times, farmers in the area have worked together to operate and maintain a shared irrigation network, with community-elected managers ensuring that the water continues to flow and that it is share

d equitably in times of scarcity. Acequias demonstrate the effectiveness of community-based approaches to resource management.

But as Brian Daly (MCP 2013) shows in his thesis, New Mexico’s acequias are now at risk. The state’s water rights law, which encourages farmers to put their own needs above the community’s and encourages a “use it or lose it” mentality, threatens to undermine the long-term survival of the acequias. Fortunately, the state legislature has given acequias a means to prevent the sale of water rights to urban developers and create water banks that ensure unused water claims aren’t taken away from the community.

Brian finds that advocacy organizations have been effective in educating acequias about their rights and helping them adopt bylaws needed to take full advantage of new state laws. However, he also finds that more outreach  is needed to inform all rural acequias about their rights, and to build their internal capacity to establish water banks. Read more about the acequias ‘approach to communal water rights in Brian’s thesis, here.

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The Problem with Short-Term Thinking: Miami-Dade County’s Experience with Land-Use Management

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In 1993, Miami-Dade County was one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to adopt a plan for climate change. A crucial leg of this plan

was to reduce vehicles miles traveled (VMT) through comprehensive land use management and improved mass transit. Evaluating the plan 15 years later, Haley Peckett (MCP 2009) found that a poorly structured system of political incentives had instead led to a substantial increase in VMT, and set out to examine the root causes of this failure.

Haley attributes much of the blame for poor land-use management with the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, a group torn across racial and ethnic lines and accountable only to their individual districts and constituencies. Following through on the county’s ambitious land use management plan would require commissioners to “hold the line” against voters and advocate groups unhappy with some negative effects of land use management and transit expansion, such as tax increases and limited availability of developable land for affordable housing.

However, with nobody in the decision-making process empowered to adopt a comprehensive perspective on what is best for the county as a whole, Haley describes how commissioners have time and again compromised the county’s long-term vision for smart growth in the sake of short-term political wins for their constituents. If Miami-Dade is to successfully implement a land-use management plan, she notes, it will have to adopt a longer view on policy outcomes and allow an independent entity with a broader view on the effects of land use to play a serious role in the policy formation process.

 

Read more about the battle over land use policy in Miami-Dade County in Haley’s thesis.