Moving Water, New Mexico Edition

Another example of the conflicts that occur when we move water from one basin to another, this one from here in New Mexico: Stella Davis in the Carlsbad Current-Argus talks about the negative reaction from folks in the Pecos River Basin to a proposal to build a pipeline to ship groundwater from the Fort Sumner area (along the Pecos in eastern New Mexico) to Santa Fe, which is across the divide in the Rio Grande Basin:

The Carlsbad flume, circa 1903, which carries irrigation water over the Carlsbad River to Pecos River valley farmers. Courtesy National Park Service

The Carlsbad flume, circa 1903, which carries irrigation water over the Carlsbad River to Pecos River valley farmers. Courtesy National Park Service

Carlsbad Irrigation District Manager Dudley Jones said his agency is concerned that the withdrawal of large amounts of water from Berrendo’s wells could impact the water table and the river, which is the life-blood for farmers in Carlsbad who receive irrigation water from the CID’s storage reservoirs located in Fort Sumner and Santa Rosa.

The water is brought down via the Pecos River during the irrigation season and stored at Brantley reservoir, located about 12 miles north of Carlsbad.

“The amount they want to transfer may not seem like much, but it is going to have an impact on the river,” Jones said. “Our concern is that if this application is approved by the State Engineer, it will result in a basin-to-basin water transfer — from the Pecos River Basin to the Rio Grande Basin. Our biggest concern is that the adjudication of the CID is completed, as is the Settlement Agreement and how we (the state) are going to meet our water obligation to Texas. The company will be taking water out of the system (Pecos River), which is already over-appropriated.”

On the surface, this has a very similar feel to the larger Southern Nevada Water Authority pipeline deal, though it is different in important ways. Santa Fe, like Las Vegas, Nev., has bumped up against its water limits, but the folks in Santa Fe have gone much farther than the gambling mecca in reducing local per capita water consumption. In addition, the pipeline is a commercial venture, with the folks putting the project together hoping to sell the water to Santa Fe. I haven’t done any serious journalism on this, so I could be wrong, but from the discussions I’ve heard at water meetings, it’s not clear that Santa Fe is an enthusiastic buyer, which could scuttle the whole deal. That’s very different from the situation in Nevada, where it is the metro area government itself that is leading the effort.


  1. JF – It was unclear, even at the latest NM Water Dialogue, what the intent of Santa Fe was. If you recall, while some present for the city of SF said they were ambivalent and wary about this plan, they also said that they would not discount accepting the water…
    Glass half full or empty, depending on the stake-holder’s perspective here.
    Interesting post.

  2. Who matters less than why. When viewed in terms of interests served, they are not so different – these two pipelines.

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