U.S. Water News Online
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- The state engineer has decided not to
shut down water wells that do not have required meters, despite an
earlier decision to do so.
About 40 state employees spent two weeks in March visiting 3,200
nonresidential wells from north of Hatch south to Sunland Park. They
found that 76 percent of them didn't have the required meters despite
a March 1 deadline to have them in place. About 764 of the wells had
meters to track water usage.
Sheldon Dorman, the state engineer's water master for the lower
Rio Grande area, said he expected more of the wells to be in
"There's hundreds of different kinds of meters," he said. "I'm not
sure why there's a shortage."
The state engineer's office has relaxed enforcement of the rule
until the end of the year -- one reason is because vendors said the
meters are in short supply.
Cheryl Fox, the manager of a Las Cruces company that sells meters,
said as the deadline approached, the number of people calling about
"[A month ago], about seven out of every 10 phone calls were
looking for a meter," she said.
The high cost of meters also is keeping some farmers from buying
them, said Gary Esslinger, manager for the Elephant Butte Irrigation
District, who helped negotiate the extended deadline.
"If a farmer has 10 wells at $1,000 a meter, can he do that? I
don't know," he said.
He said the irrigation district is looking into loan programs to
help farmers buy meters.
Runoff from the Rio Grande is expected to be light this year, and
farmers likely will rely on wells to supplement irrigation.
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