Current Status of Aamodt Water Rights Settlement
Glorieta Geoscience, Inc. (GGI) has been working in the Aamodt affected Tesuque, Pojoaque, and Nambé Basins, collectively known as the Pojoaque Basin, for over 37 years. On March 21st, 2016 the United States District Court effectively closed the Pojoaque Basin to any new points of diversion (a.k.a. wells) without transferable water rights.
The District Court decision significantly changes water rights administration, permitting and drilling of domestic wells, irrigation, and general development in the Pojoaque Basin. The court ruled to approve the Settlement Agreement between Indian and non-Indian parties, settle the water rights of the Pueblos of Nambé, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque, and enter the proposed Interim Administrative Order.
This change significantly affects current and prospective property and water rights owners in the Tesuque, Pojoaque, Nambé, and San Ildefonso areas. In some cases, it will affect the quantity of a water right and the ways in which a property owner is allowed to use the water right. In all cases, it affects the amount of time, energy, and money a property owner invests in water rights research to protect their water right assets.
As a property owner, what do I need to know?
The Aamodt Settlement Agreement offers options to property owners that depend on domestic wells for their home and garden water supply. Domestic well owners will make a decision regarding continued use of their domestic wells; this decision is referred to as a “well election.” There are three well election options for a property owner to choose from:
- Continue using their domestic well in perpetuity AND limit usage to comply with the terms of the Settlement Agreement.
- Discontinue use of their domestic well AND connect to the Community Water Utility (CWU) as soon as service is available.
- Continue using their domestic well AND limit usage to comply with the terms of the Settlement Agreement AND require that upon transfer of the property (sale or inheritance) the new owner connect to the CWU.
Currently, the District Court has not yet set a deadline for property owners to make a well election. Due to the detail involved in understanding the costs and long-term effects of each option on your property value, your well election choice should be a well-researched and educated decision.
Each well election option has different benefits, consequences, and usage limitations depending on the category of your domestic well. Domestic well categories include:
- Pre-basin (pre-November 29, 1956)
- 72-12-1 Pre-moratorium (pre-January 13, 1983)
- Post-moratorium, signed the Post-1982 Well Agreement
- Post-moratorium, did not sign the Post-1982 Well Agreement
GGI can assist you in defining which category your domestic well falls in, and how each well election option will ultimately affect your current and future property value. Your well election decision will be influenced by any existing or potential water rights, such as surface water rights and/or additional groundwater rights, associated with your property.
Be sure that you are familiar with ALL of your water rights, and that you have all of the proper permitting and ownership documents in order. We can calculate your historic water usage as it affects the value of your water rights, which should be quantified before you make a well election decision. Glorieta Geoscience has been working in these basins since 1979 and can assist you in making these important decisions.
As a property purchaser, what do I need to know?
If you are considering purchasing property in the Pojoaque Basin, water rights research should undoubtedly be part of your due diligence. It is important that you clearly define your water needs. For example:
- Do you want a garden and/or landscaping?
- Do you have horses or other livestock to water?
- Do you want a farm or ranchito with >1 acre of irrigation?
- Does the property have a swimming pool?
- Have you assessed the pros and cons of owning a private domestic well vs. being a member of the CWU?
Once you have outlined your water needs, Glorieta Geoscience will work with you on developing a water budget and start researching all water right documentation pertaining to the property.
In the event that the property you are considering purchasing has a well, Glorieta Geoscience will research information about the well and summarize it so you can be sure that the water rights and Court Orders associated with the well meet your water budget.
In the event that the property you are considering purchasing does not have a well, Glorieta Geoscience will research information about any water rights (surface or ground) associated with the property. If the property does not have water rights, Glorieta Geoscience will research the cost and availability of water rights so you can take these costs into account as you are considering your property purchase.
What is my best option?
The Aamodt Case was filed in 1966 and there is a lot of information out there. Our professionals at Glorieta Geoscience will compile your water right documents and work with you as you choose a well election, or buy or sell water rights. Please contact us at 505-983-5446 before signing a well election, or buying or selling water rights. We’d be happy to help.
April Jean Tafoya
©Glorieta Geoscience, Inc. 2016