The Office of the State Engineer held a meeting to discuss the Aamodt Water Rights Settlement proposed Rules and Regulations for the Nambé-Pojoaque-Tesuque (NPT) Water Master District with interested members of the public. The meeting, well attended by the public, government officials, and representatives of stakeholders in the Aamodt Settlement, was held in the old Senate chambers in the Bataan Memorial Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico on August 16th, 2017.
Many concerns were addressed at the meeting; concerns discussed here include:
- To Be Irrigated (TBI) acreage reporting and Acequia Funding
- Historical Beneficial Use (HBU)
- Clarity of options
To Be Irrigated (TBI) Acreage & Acequia Funding
The proposed Rules and Regulations require Reporting of Lands To Be Irrigated under section 19.25.xx.103. Each year in March, the mayordomo of each acequia or private ditch shall notify the watermaster, by means of a letter accompanied by a map, of acres under that ditch to be irrigated (TBI acres). The general concern expressed by members of the public focused on
- the time consuming burden of this requirement in addition to a mayordomos current responsibilities
- difficulty of filling the mayordomo position with the burden of this requirement which appears to demand some technical savvy and a significant increase in time the mayordomo has to spend on administration
- funding for such a responsibility (mayordomos are usually unpaid)
Preparing TBI letters and maps annually has just been introduced to water right holders within the NPT basin, but the TBI lands concept has been in effect for many years in other basins in New Mexico. GGI recently worked with water right holders on the Gila River in southern New Mexico to complete a “dynamic database,” which combines an online mapping application with abstracted water right information for over 400 parcels on approximately 1500 irrigated acres in the Upper Gila/Viden valley. The dynamic database, court ordered by a federal judge, assists irrigators with submitting accurate TBI letters and maps to the Gila Water Commissioner on an annual basis. The GGI dynamic database can be viewed here.
The dynamic database created by GGI for the Sunset and New Model Ditches clarifies water rights for their section of the Gila River and allows TBI forms to be easily submitted. GGI will work with Acequia Associations and parciantes to develop a user friendly, accessible, adaptable, spatial, and accurate dynamic database for stakeholders and regulators to utilize for TBI and other water right information needs.
Acequia and ditch funding, similar to any community program and resource, is dependent upon many factors which vary with the political winds and current fiscal condition of the state. The New Mexico Acequia Association has resources for those seeking acequia and/or ditch funding. The dynamic database, discussed above, was created with funding from several of the listed sources.
Historical Beneficial Use
Section 19.25.xx.108 addresses Diversion, Use, and Administration of Groundwater for Non-Pueblo Water Rights and outlines Determination of Historic Beneficial Use (HBU) for ground water rights with no specific amount set forth in the final decree. In the event that a specific amount for a specific well was not set forth in the final decree, then the water right shall be the amount of historic beneficial use from the well, either by presumption or proof.
It is in the owner’s best interest to provide proof of beneficial use of water from your well as the presumed domestic amounts range from 0.5 – 0.7 acre-feet. The proposed rules, subject to change until the effective date of publish, require:
- meter readings for the period of time from entry of the metering order for the NPT basin until three years after the entry of the metering order
- a map of the area of the claimed beneficial use as required by 26.2.24 NMAC; and
- any other documentation that demonstrates the history and continuity of historic beneficial use, and may include deeds, survey plats, affidavits or other evidence to substantiate the claim.
The water master will determine the HBU amount based upon evidence of the highest amount of historic beneficial use in one calendar year.
Proof of HBU will determine the amount of water you can divert, and hence the value of your water right. Before filing HBU documents with the OSE, it is recommended that you consult with the water rights experts at GGI to review your claim. GGI has provided assistance to many irrigators, municipalities, and industrial facilities for historical beneficial use and proof of beneficial use filings and we can assist you with maximizing the value of your water right.
Clarity of Options
A concern stated by several public participants was the “lack of clarity” of the well election options. As with all water right adjudications, water right holders want to make sure they are completely informed before making a decision which affects their property value. Understanding this concern, GGI prepared a blog in the spring of 2016 focusing on property owners and well elections in the NPT basin.
The Aamodt Case was filed in 1966 and there is a lot of information out there. Our professionals at GGI 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
Geologist, Water Rights Specialist
President, Senior Geohydrologist & Water Rights Specialist
Glorieta Geoscience, Inc.