From the morning paper, a quick look at the New Mexico Court of Appeals decision on the state’s domestic well statute (sub/ad req):
New Mexico’s law giving homeowners the right to drill their own water well is legal and does not unfairly harm other water users in violation of the state constitution, according to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.
The court, in a decision issued late Friday, overruled a lower court decision that the domestic well law violated the state constitution because of harm such well drilling could have on nearby water rights holders.
The Appeals Court ruled that the state engineer, the state’s top water official, has sufficient administrative authority to manage water resources in such a way that pre-existing water rights are protected.
But this really deserves more than a quick look, because there’s a nuance in the decision that telegraphs what might be happening next:
The Appeals Court ruled that the Legislature created the statute requiring the state engineer to issue domestic well permits, and that it is therefore up to the state engineer and the Legislature to fix any resulting problems in the administration of water rights.
“The present case is a showcase of the festering issues involving senior water rights owners, the Legislature, and the State Engineer,” the court ruling said. (emphasis added)
In other words, appeal or not, we haven’t heard the last of this.