Carlsbad seeks a showdown on water

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Published: April 9, 2013

A small water agency in southern New Mexico has moved to force state agencies that control water distribution to deprive some users of their supplies.

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The local agency, the Carlsbad Irrigation District, or C.I.D., acted to ensure that its alfalfa farmers receive the supplemental deliveries to which they say they are entitled.

The irrigation district voted unanimously last week to make what is known as a “priority call” on the Pecos River, a move that could force New Mexico’s Office of the State Engineer to reallocate supplies, relying on a longstanding priority list and assigning water to all the users of the river based on their seniority. On Tuesday, the district was pressing its case at meetings with state officials.

This year, Carlsbad farmers have been told that they will receive only 10 percent of their normal water allotment, in part because of the lack of supplemental water from state-run wells.

The priority call, in the midst of the worst drought on record in the Pecos River Basin, which runs almost the full length of the state from north to south, could mean a loss of water for newer but more economically robust industries, including oil and gas extraction and cheese production. The oldest claims on water across the West tend to belong to the heirs of the farmers who first seeded the land in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Last month, Estevan R. López, the director of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, warned the Carlsbad agency against taking the action.

“I understand the frustration of the C.I.D.’s farmers given the lack of water and the disappointing future climate forecasts,” he wrote in a letter to the district. “However, a priority call may not result in improvement.

“I caution you to be realistic in your expectations of the amount of water that is available for delivery to the C.I.D. under the current drought conditions.”

But the Carlsbad district is determined to make the state engineer enforce a priority call. As the district’s lawyer, Steve Hernandez, said, “New Mexico has to do what the law says, bite the bullet and start cutting people off.”

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3 thoughts on “Carlsbad seeks a showdown on water

    • AMEN!!! Make the call! Force the hard decisions. The future is here,m amigos, and it ain’t going to be easy. While I would rather farmers get the H2O than oil and gas plunderers, I do wish the farmers could grow something other than water-greedy alfalfa, but then the price is good for hay these days…

  1. The CID is not serious. Were they serious, they would have issued the call themselves already. Getting the State Engineer to do it is a joke and the story is only for publicity. If they are serious about getting the SE to do it, they will have to file for a Writ of Mandamus from the Court. The Writ basically says get with it and do your mandated stautory duty of manage the resources according to state law.

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