A New Mexico District Court Judge upheld a decision to deny the pumping of millions of gallons of ground water in the state’s rural Southwest plains.
The original proposal by Augustin Plains Ranch LLC, a New York-based company, sought a permit to pump 54,000 acre-feet of water per year from 37 wells in the San Augustin Plains. The proposal, available online, states:
The water supply comes from a deep aquifer beneath the Ranch on the Plains of San Augustin, approximately 50 miles west of Socorro. Hydrologists, geohydrologists, and engineers have determined that this groundwater can sustain pumping of 54,000 acre-feet per year for 300 years; by comparison, metropolitan Albuquerque uses about 107,000 acre-feet-per year.
The Ranch has applied for a permit to divert this water and deliver it to those who need it the most—needs that the Ranch proposes to determine in collaboration with elected officials at the state and local level, water managers, and end-users, including water planners, municipalities, industry, and representatives of irrigators and environmental groups.
The request was heavily protested. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center represented more than 80 residents, filing the motion to dismiss the original proposal. On its website, Bruce Frederick a staff attorney for the Environmental Law Center stated:
“The judge’s decision confirmed what 150 years of water law has already established — you can’t take the public’s water unless you have a concrete beneficial use for the water. This corporation is trying to hoard the water until its value increased enough to justify selling it. The decision today is an important step towards protecting New Mexico from rampant water speculation.“
Augustin Plains Ranch may still petition to a higher court.