New Mexico officials are facing a looming deadline on how to manage the state's last free-flowing river. The state has rights to some of the Gila River and one of its tributaries under a 2004 settlement with Arizona but must decide by the end of the year what to do with the water. If New Mexico does not use the water, it could forgo millions of dollars in federal funds available for construction of a diversion project.
Environmentalists and sportsmen say any dams or diversions would harm the area's wildlife and limit opportunities for recreation.
But farmers throughout the region say the Gila would offer a backup source of water as dry conditions persist. Two state senators have introduced legislation this session to try and address the dilemma.