U.S. Water News Online
SANTA FE, N.M. — Five eastern New Mexico farmers have filed applications to transfer their rights for about 2 billion gallons of water a year to Santa Fe and other cities.
The move is part of an effort by the backers of a private pipeline to bring water from Fort Sumner to serve homes and businesses in Santa Fe and other communities in the Rio Grande Basin.
The state engineer's office, which has jurisdiction over all such water use in the state, will formally review the plan. The deadline to file objections is later this month.
Kenneth Fresquez, manager of the state engineer's district that includes the Fort Sumner area, predicts the idea will draw protests and that the issues raised will take months to years to sort out.
Under the plan by Borrendo LLC, water once used to irrigate alfalfa and other crops would travel through 150 miles of pipeline to reach municipal water systems.
The village of Fort Sumner plans to file a protest. Officials told the company that they don't view the action as opposition to the project, but as a way for the village to stay informed about new hydrologic information.
Borrendo president Ron Green, a Roswell businessman, has declined to say how much the project will cost or how much he expects to earn. He hopes to sell water to end users in the Santa Fe area and use the city's water infrastructure to deliver it.
Green also wants to retain rights to reuse the water after it passes through the city treatment plant.
Green said he's confident the proposal fits within state regulations.
Green sees the project as one of the necessary steps to provide drinking water for parts of the state that are gaining more population and don't have enough water to sustain such growth.
Although the trend has an adverse impact on agriculture, he said the proposal to shut down some De Baca County farmland is not so bad.
“We are not moving water from capital-intensive, high-income agriculture, from chile, onions or pecans, but it's from the lower-income field crops,” he said. “We have structured it such that it does have positive effect on the local community.”
He said, for example, a half-dozen part-time farm labor jobs will be replaced with more full-time jobs in well-field, water treatment and pipeline operating jobs.
Santa Fe city officials have met with Green and his team of lawyers and water experts, but haven't agreed to any aspect of their proposal.
City water resources coordinator Dale Lyons said negotiations are moving slowly.
“We are still waiting for a business plan and a number of other things,” Lyons said. “... Conceptually, it is still moving forward. It remains to be seen whether it's going to be viable or not. We are interested to see.”
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