Thursday, May 27, 2010

OPINION: Water’s Murky Reflections

Magdalena Potluck
By don Wiltshire

My head hurts. I’ve got a post-1040 headache. There’s just so much information and emotional roller coaster rides that I can take. The Second Annual Meeting of the San Augustin Water Coalition was the primary culprit. It’s always a joy to see so many people gathered together for a common cause. Issues and attitudes that surfaced during the meeting give me much concern.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this issue, here’s a little background information. Back in November of 2007, the San Augustin Ranch LLC filed an application with the State Engineer to drill 37 water wells to a depth of 2,000 feet. The application called for 17.5 billion gallons of water a year to be removed from the aquifer and piped to the Rio Grande near Elephant Butte. It's been estimated that the water table could drop as much as 30 feet a year on the Plains.
About 480 protests to this application were received and sent off to the Litigation Unit in Santa Fe. Round Two started in August of 2008.
It included an amendment to increase the depth of the wells to 3,000 feet and to “provide water by pipeline to supplement or offset the effects of existing uses and for new uses for central and northern New Mexico communities including Albuquerque and Santa Fe...” This was followed by another flood of protest letters to the State Engineer.
Right now, the official protesters (those who returned their letters of protest within a ten day period after the last published application or amendment) are sending in their $25 “hearing fees” to the State Engineer. We will then be waiting for the State Engineer to schedule a pre-hearing conference.
Last year, the Annual Meeting of the San Augustin Water Coalition (SAWC) was a rather raucous event with food and lots of discussion about events that would be taking place. This year’s meeting was much more subdued with candidates for local and state offices explaining their positions and how they could or could not help us in our endeavors.
The first chill that went down my back was from Eileen Dodds’ emotional reading of the Mission Statement: “The purpose for which SAWC is organized is to protect the water resources of the San Augustin and associated water basins, and the public welfare and conservation of water associated with those water resources, now and in the future.” Future, in this case, being what we will be leaving or not leaving to our children and our grandchildren.
We were urged to send in our $25 hearing fees to the State Engineer well before the June 28 deadline. Failure to do so may jeopardize our individual rights as protesters to this insane “water grab” action.
The Candidate Forum section of the meeting was interesting, save the fact that not one Democrat dared to set foot in Catron County. I became more interested in the issues that were being discussed rather than the candidates themselves. One gathering storm cloud is the amount of federal matching grants that are coming due. In the next several years they will make this year’s budget balancing act look like a circus trick. The other issue that sent shivers down my spine was our Water Contract with the “900 pound gorilla next door”: Texas. New Mexico is required to allow a certain amount of water to enter Texas every year via the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers, OR ELSE! This may become one of the deciding points in our upcoming battle.
After the meeting, I listened in as a couple were complaining to candidate for Governor, Janice Arnold-Jones, about the “ultra-liberal” ecologically friendly bias of the government in Santa Fe. They wanted her to know that we, as a state were losing opportunities for resource development to Texas because of our restrictions on drilling. Go figure. I had just about as much excitement as I could stand for one evening.
On the way back to Magdalena, an early evening, electric-blue haze hung over the landscape.
The Plains seemed to be dreaming of a time, 10,000 years ago, when they were still a beautiful blue inland lake. They were wondering what us silly humans had in store for them for the next hundred years.
Learn more about our water and how we can save it at the Magdalena Public Library. June 2 at 7 pm will be the kick-off of the Adult Summer Reading Program with a screening of the documentary Flow: How Did a Handful of Corporations Steal our Water? Programs, discussions and speakers are being scheduled every other Wednesday evening thereafter.

If you have any comments, problems, solutions, upcoming events or Excedrin extra strength, contact me at

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