Interstate Stream Commission gives public update
The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission has delivered about 1,060 acre-feet of water from Pecos Valley augmentation wells for use by the Carlsbad Irrigation District in recent weeks.
Of that amount, 915 acre-feet has come from six of the 10 wells in the Seven Rivers area near the Brantley Reservoir from Oct. 29 until Nov. 21.
Another 145 acre-feet is from four of the five wells in the Lake Arthur wellfield site, with the water provided from Nov. 6 to Nov 22.
The information was shared by Hannah Riseley-White, ISC deputy director and Pecos Basin manager, during an online public meeting Monday night.
The water from the state-owned wells is needed to ensure that the Carlsbad Irrigation District (CID) has its legally mandated amounts available for irrigation by March 2021, as required by the 2003 Pecos Settlement Agreement.
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Exceptional drought conditions in southeastern New Mexico and projections of a warm, dry winter due to La Nina weather conditions from now until early spring have led the ISC officials to begin the well use to guarantee that the CID will have at least 50,000 acre-feet available to it for the 2021 irrigation season.
Riseley-White said that it appears at this point that CID could be significantly short of the minimum.
“Our thinking right now is it could be something close to 10,000 to 12,000 acre-feet short of that 50,000 acre-feet target,” she said.
Although some people don’t like the 2003 Pecos Settlement Agreement, Riseley-White said it has been an important tool in Pecos River water management and explained that the legal agreement was developed in collaboration with many different Pecos River water users. Various groups are also monitoring the effect of using the wells on aquifer levels.
The settlement agreement was signed by the CID, the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District, the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, the Interstate Stream Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as a way to ensure that New Mexico entities could manage water allocations among themselves and also meet the requirements of the federal 1948 Pecos River Compact.
The Compact, approved by the U.S. Congress and President Harry Truman, requires New Mexico to make sure that Texas receives a certain amount of water from the Pecos River. In 1974, Texas sued New Mexico for under-delivery, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court found in favor of Texas and fined New Mexico $14 million, required New Mexico to meet all future water delivery requirements and appointed water masters to ensure compliance. The 2003 Pecos Settlement Agreement is intended to resolve disputes among New Mexico water users so that the state can comply with the federal order.
The water from the Pecos Valley augmentation wells is not needed to go to the state line to meet the Texas delivery requirements. New Mexico has a 166,300 acre-feet credit with Texas right now, Riseley-White said, but the water is needed to be sure that the CID has its 50,000 acre-feet of water available for irrigation.
If the CID does not have sufficient water, it can make a priority call for Pecos River water, requiring all others with junior water rights to wait until CID gets its allotment before they can use theirs.
In earlier comments, Riseley-White said the ISC is preparing to get authorization to pump from the wells for 2021 and 2022 as well, in case drought conditions continue.
Riseley-White said about 46 people attended the two public meetings about the current wellfields usage, with the first one held Nov. 18. She said about 33 of those were members of the general public and included two state legislators, District 58 Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, and District 55 Rep. Cathyrnn Brown, R-Carlsbad.
Riseley-White said the ISC will continue the Pecos Valley well use as planned. Regular updates will be provided on the ISC website, by emails and press releases, and a planned additional online meeting before the 2021 legislative session.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.