With 90 percent of New Mexico currently in extreme or exceptional drought, the harshest categories in the U.S. Drought Monitor, farmers are forced to go to extremes for water, including paying up to $45,000 to drill a well "down as much as 91 meters (300 feet), nearly five times deeper than before the drought."
Brett Walton at Circle of Blue reports on the legal battles over water:
Even municipal suppliers are dipping into the aquifers. The city of El Paso, where 666,000 people live, will increase its groundwater pumping by 75 to 80 percent compared to an average year, El Paso Water Utilities spokeswoman Karol Parker told Circle of Blue. The city also has a desalination plant, but Parker said it will not need to ramp up production because groundwater is sufficient right now.
All this pumping prompted the state of Texas to file a complaint with the U.S. Supreme Court in January asserting that excessive groundwater use in New Mexico was cutting into water that would wind up in the river and flow downstream.
Scott Verhines, the New Mexico state engineer, called the lawsuit an attack, but a year ago he acknowledged that record levels of groundwater pumping in the Elephant Butte Irrigation District are “unsustainable.”