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Local officials plan to address Carlsbad’s water request


Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Monday’s announcement could affect farmers’ usage rights from Pecos River

Local water district officials plan to make an announcement Monday about a Carlsbad Irrigation District request for priority rights to Pecos River waters.

The Carlsbad Irrigation District board of directors passed a resolution March 19 that was sent to the Office of the State Engineer asking that the state administer Pecos River water usage by priority rights, according to documents posted online by the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission.

If the Office of the State Engineer agrees that the Carlsbad Irrigation District should have priority, the district and its members might be able to use their annual water allotments from the Pecos River before any other water right owners could access theirs, or the state could order other water users to reduce their usage.

The situation potentially affects the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District and the 100,000 farmers, businesses and residents it serves in a large swath of Chaves and Eddy counties.

Aron Balok, superintendent of the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District, said the district plans to issue an announcement on Monday. He chose not to make further comment until then.

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Balok and other PVAC officials have said previously that they have taken steps with the aim of mitigating a CID priority call, should that happen again as it did in 2013. PVACD’s actions have included buying properties with the CID for their water rights. The PVACD and CID are also among the parties to a longstanding lawsuit about Pecos River water rights.

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh told city councilors at their Thursday meeting that he has talked with PVACD officials. He also said he has asked City Manager Joe Neeb and the chair of the Roswell City Council Infrastructure Committee to convene a future meeting to discuss how the city is managing its water supply and especially its treated wastewater.

“Are we ensuring that the maximum amount is being used for the best possible use for agriculture and/or return to the Pecos River system?” he asked.

He explained that the city is the region’s largest municipal water right owner, as well as one of the largest water right owners overall.

“This is critical to our municipality,” he said. “This issue will, or could, adversely affect the agricultural industry and other industries around here.”

Hannah Riseley-White, the Pecos Basin Bureau chief and deputy director of the New Mexico Interstate Commission, had indicated in public meetings earlier in the year that a priority call could occur this year given the extreme drought conditions being experienced in southeastern New Mexico, as well as low water levels available in reservoirs.

Riseley-White and a public information officer with the Interstate Commission did not respond to request for information by press time.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a collaborative effort of various agencies, southeastern New Mexico is in the most severe drought category, “exceptional drought.” The exceptional drought, or D4 category, is for areas that have received 53.5% or less precipitation than they normally receive for the year.

All of New Mexico is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. On Dec. 9, 2020, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency due to the situation, noting that 85% of the state was in severe drought or worse. The order requested several actions, including that county, municipal and local governments recommend actions or emergency funding to mitigate problems.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.