Food, Energy, and Water Resources in New Mexico

Past, Present, and Future

by Lisa Hurst and Dr. Anjali Mulchandani

Photography and videography, 2022. View the complete collection on Lisa Hurst's online exhibit.

How have humans survived and thrived in New Mexico for hundreds of years? Three essential resources have made this possible: water, energy, and food. The systems that produce these three resources are deeply interrelated.

Both food and energy resources rely heavily upon our limited water resources. Agriculture requires water for irrigation -- over 80% of New Mexico’s water usage is for growing crops such as onions, potatoes, corn, beans, and alfalfa. The energy sector requires water for steam turbines, hydropower, thermoelectric cooling, and fracking. Meanwhile, the water sector requires energy for pumping, water treatment, and wastewater treatment. Agriculture also requires energy for multiple purposes -- for pumping water for irrigation, and for food distribution from producer to consumer.

Over our past, present, and future, humans continually make choices about how to use and maintain these water, energy, and food resources. Some of these choices, such as planting crops that have low water needs and using drip irrigation instead of flood irrigation, have been positive. They have both helped human growth and conserved limited resources. However, some choices, like drilling for non-renewable resources such as oil and gas, have led to negative impacts on the health of our environment.

The grand challenges that New Mexico and our planet face today, such as climate change and population growth, threaten the availability and security of our resources. How can we preserve Earth’s natural resources to continue to provide water, energy, and food for a shared future? By understanding the linkages between these three resources, we can work to preserve and protect them all simultaneously. 

Experience the work in its entirety on Lisa Hurst's online exhibit.