New Research: Mega-Dairies Contribute to New Mexico’s Drought and Contaminate Groundwater

Research follows resignation of top water official amid statewide drought crisis.

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Food SystemClean Water

For Immediate Release

Santa Fe, NM – In a new paper, Food & Water Watch researchers found that New Mexico’s large dairies are fueling  the state’s widespread drought crisis through excessive water usage and contamination of drinking water sources. The paper estimates that every day, the mega-dairy industry uses a colossal 32 million gallons of water to operate, and generates over 8 million gallons of wastewater that jeopardizes underground aquifers, even as the state struggles with limited groundwater supply.  Read the full report here.

“Not only do New Mexico’s mega-dairies deplete the scarce water supplies on which New Mexicans rely, they also contaminate the water adjacent to their facilities,” said Food & Water Watch’s Southern Organizing Director Jorge Aguilar. “New Mexico’s water resources should benefit its people, not corporate interests. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham must protect her constituents’ right to water and direct the Office of the State Engineer and the New Mexico Environment Department to hold this industry accountable for its destructive impact on the water supply.. ”

New Mexico currently has the worst drought outlook of any state in the U.S., and the recent resignation of State Engineer and top water official John D’Antonio has focused attention on the state’s ability to address the drought crisis. D’Antonio cited frustration with a chronic lack of funding to protect water resources as the reason for his departure. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has since called for an overhaul of New Mexico’s water policy and stressed the need “to rewrite what the state engineer’s office looks like.” 

The paper’s findings also underscore the heightened risk of nitrate contamination mega-dairies pose to New Mexico’s freshwater drinking supplies.  

A few key findings of the paper:

  • 80 percent of New Mexico’s mega-dairies have only half the land needed to properly absorb the manure produced by the cows. The excess nutrients can contaminate drinking water sources in New Mexico.
  • According to the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) map of mega-dairies, most if not all are situated on “high sensitivity” aquifers. NMED has acknowledged that leaching from mega-dairies could contaminate groundwater sources. 

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Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]