Opinions & Editorial Arizona Water Rights Best Interests
By Kelly Kuenstler, Luna County Manager and Richard F. McInturff, Deming City Administrator
There has been several items of interest printed recently surrounding the Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act and its potential effect on the Gila River. We write this editorial in an effort to provide accurate information and to compliment the local governments working together in an effort to keep these precious resources in the southwestern corner of New Mexico, were it rightfully belongs.
The Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act of 2004 provides up to 14,000 acre-feet of water to be diverted and consumptively used in New Mexico. This water is the LAST new water from the southwestern corner of the State will ever have available for current and future uses. If we do not take advantage of the right to use it in the four county area, the water will be used somewhere else in New Mexico and our ability to use it will be lost forever. The future of the southwestern four counties depends on securing the right to use this water today.
If the current drought has taught us one thing, it should be that a price cannot be attached to the value of water. When there is no water available, having it is priceless. We must make decisions that are financially responsible and provide the resources we need to secure the future of our children and grandchildren. Water diverted from the Gila River under the Act will be monitored to comply with very strict diversion limits that only allow flood flows to be captured. These flood flow diversions will not “destroy” the river as certain groups are trying to imply.
Other important factors to take into consideration regarding the project include:
1. If the project comes to fruition, this will be the third largest lake in New Mexico.
2. The economic benefits of this will be real and sustainable. This project will not “destroy” the Gila River—far from it. Diversion can only occur during high flows when there is an excess, and could be returned if necessary during droughts to keep the river wet, helping both famers and the river. The terms of the diversion were carefully crafted to ensure that the ecologic function of the river can not only be fully protected, but can even be improved. It should not be a problem to help the river and help the users too!
3. A continued pumping of groundwater is only a short term solution. We are depleting our ground water faster than it is being recharged. Development of the new Gila water under the AWSA, a renewable supply, will be required to provide for future needs.
4. The 14,000 acre feet of water available to New Mexico on the Gila is going to be the last new water in the very dry southern part of the State. Passing it up is just not rational.
5. We should let New Mexico’s past history be a guide. In the early 1960’s, Clovis and Portales could have developed the safe yield from the Ute Reservoir for about $43 million dollars. They didn’t. Today it is going to cost them over $500 million dollars.
6. Albuquerque and Santa Fe claimed in the 1950’s that they had an inexhaustible supply of water. Yet, in the late 1950’s they still signed on to the San Juan Chama project. If they had not done this, they would have had to find that water somewhere else and the cost would have been in the billions.
7. Investments in natural resources, from the Louisiana Purchase to Alaska and the Gila, always pay off in the end.
We complement the county governments in Grant, Hidalgo, Luna and Caron counties for working together to creation solutions for southwestern New Mexico. We applaud local officials for looking to the future and attempting to avoid the passage of huge debt to our children and grandchildren by acting now in a responsible way. By Dennis Inman
How often have you heard that something is being proposed with your ‘best interest’ in mind? What this person or group is saying, is that it is in my best interest; for you to believe that what is being proposed is in your best interest. These are usually agenda driven proposals that are on the surface well intended but generally not in your best interest. I believe that what is in my best interest is derived from my thoughts and not someone else’s. I am capable of deciding what is best for me.
We join groups or organizations that have what we believe are similar goals or objectives and considered that this group think is in our best interest. However, we may not think that a dissimilar group or an opposing group has our best interest in mind. I think that a ‘red flag’ should go up every time we heard that something is in our best interest.
The Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC proposal to pump 54,000 acre feet of water annually from the San Augustin Plains is being pushed by the LLC as being in our best interest. This includes not only the people who live within the plains but all of the people of New Mexico. Privatization of water within the state is not in my best interest.
My hope is that most of the people within the State agree with my position and that the State Engineer understands there is more at stake than not having a valid application on the LLC’s part. It is bad enough that water could be privatized in this state but to have it being controlled by a foreign group is unconscionable.