Top Water Official In New Mexico To Retire As State Awaits Decision In Rio Grande Case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s top water official will be stepping down next month, wrapping up a four-decade career that has included work on water projects from New Mexico and Colorado to Texas.

Mike Hamman has served as the state engineer for the past two years and previously led an irrigation district that spans thousands of acres (hectares) in New Mexico's most populated area. He also worked with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, managing federal water projects from the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado to Fort Quitman in Texas.

Hamman most recently was among those involved in negotiations that led to a three-state consent decree aimed at settling a long-running dispute with Texas over management of the Rio Grande. That case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hamman said in a statement issued Wednesday that he will continue to support efforts to improve New Mexico's water security while giving more attention to his family's small farm in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

“Collaboration with all our communities have been the key in finding lasting solutions as we prepared for a more arid future,” he said, speaking of the work he has done throughout his career.

Hamman's last day will be June 30. It will be up to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to choose his successor. It wasn't immediately clear if she planned to conduct a national search or choose a candidate from the many water experts in New Mexico.

The state engineer is charged with administering New Mexico's water resources and has authority over the measurement and distribution of all surface and groundwater — a task that has become increasingly challenging as the arid state grapples with ongoing drought and the effects of climate change.

New Mexico earlier this year rolled out its latest water plan, which expanded on recommendations developed by a water policy task force that Hamman chaired in 2022. The water plan noted that some systems in New Mexico are losing anywhere from 40% to 70% of all treated drinking water because of breaks and leaks in old infrastructure.