Stuff I wrote elsewhere: “Lake” Arthur

From the morning paper, the story of Lake Arthur, the pond in the middle of Estancia, a rural New Mexico town that won’t give up on its public water:

The natural flow in the spring feeding Lake Arthur stopped long ago, said 51-year-old Daniel Chavez, Estancia public works director and proud native son.

By the fire station, up a low hill from Lake Arthur, Chavez pointed to the big metal lid over the first well, drilled 170 feet down to pump water up to the spring once it stopped flowing on its own.

When that well failed, they drilled another back in 2004. Just to be safe, they ran it down 400 feet into the groundwater that is the lifeblood of the Estancia Basin. And where the spring once flowed on its own, they now pump 50 gallons a minute, up to a fountain, then down through a little artificial stream to lovely Lake Arthur.

Where the stream enters the lake, Chavez and his colleagues built a lovely little bridge, already a popular spot for weddings.

The tale of Lake Arthur is a story you hear a lot out in the Estancia Basin — where springs once flowed, now we pump. And in most places, the water table keeps dropping.


  1. Chris – So here’s what I’m wondering about when the Red Queen steps off. Already in the Estancia Basin, some farmers have dropped out because the cost of pumping water makes farming uneconomical. As the water table drops, the cost of pumping increases. As this continues, less and less of the basin’s farming will therefore be economical. Will this price structure – fewer farmers the more the aquifer drops – be what ultimately sets the constraint on the basin’s water consumption?

  2. Absent some other factor to alter the equation that would seem to be the logical progression. Other factors might include new demands for water that have different economics – housing or higher value crops – or a government policy that brings down the cost of growing crops – subsidized electricity, imported water, other crop subsidies. What do they currently grow out that way?

  3. Chris – Very good point about the possible government policy distortions that could upset my postulated economic equilibrium. They grow mostly alfalfa and corn, some new greenhouse operations (not sure what’s inside ’em). They’ve also got a long history of beans, used to call themselves the pinto bean capital of the world. Also pumpkins!

Comments are closed.