U.S. Water News Online
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. -- Spa owners fearing increased
demands for water might hurt the supply to existing hot springs have
asked the city commission to impose a moratorium on drilling domestic
The request has sparked a dispute over how to manage the hot
springs that has pitted longtime residents against newcomers, the
Albuquerque Journal reported in a copyright story.
With plans for a spaceport south of town and the construction of
large residential subdivisions, interest in local real estate is
Spa owners worry that drilling new wells might jeopardize the hot
spring aquifer that helps their tourism industry thrive.
"It's kind of like a gold rush -- a gold rush that's killing the
asset," said Kathleen Clark, who owns the Charles Motel and Spa.
The city commission has tabled the request for a moratorium after
several commissioners said they want updated hydrological data.
A group of property owners has hired a geologist to study the
aquifer to get a better idea of how much use it can sustain. The last
major study was completed in 1942.
Lee Foerstner, who runs the Riverbend Hot Springs with his wife,
said the proposed moratorium has pitted "the newcomers and the
old-timers" against each other.
Mick Gill of Colorado is seeking a commercial well permit so that
guests at his renovated two-room lodge can enjoy hot spring baths.
Gill describes the proposed moratorium as protectionist.
"They don't want to share the resource, and they don't want to
promote economic development outside their own business," he said.
Spa owners became concerned when they noticed problems with their
wells this summer.
In July, William Martin, owner of the Artesian Bath House and
Trailer Court, noticed that flows from his wells had dropped from 94
gallons per minute to 65 gallons per minute. In August, the rate fell
to 56 gallons per minute.
Martin also shut down his public baths for two weeks in July, the
first time he had ever done so, when the water appeared brown.
About the same time, a shallow well at Clark's spa began drawing
high levels of sand and gravel.
Stephen Kortemeier, owner of the Hay-Yo-Kay Hot Springs bath
house, told city commissioners that the reduced flows were the
"canary in the coal mine."
But Tim Smith, who recently moved here from California and has
applied for a commercial well permit to provide public baths, and
others called evidence of harm to the aquifer "circumstantial and
They urged the city commission to study the hot springs before
Las Cruces geologist Jim Witcher, who was hired by the domestic
and commercial well owners, said he will provide a hydrogeological
report next month.
Those who asked for the moratorium say they welcome updated
information on the aquifer.
Clark said in hindsight, it was a mistake to ask for a moratorium
because "it created a rift in the community and pitted 'them' against
"At least I got everybody's attention in town," she said. "The
community's coming together to get this study done ... and that
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