Wa­ter rights, deep wells

The Taos News - - PEOPLE TO WATCH -

El Prado Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion District Clerk and Wa­ter Op­er­a­tor Marissa Romero checked the lev­els in wa­ter stor­age tanks in mid-May dur­ing her night shift, turn­ing on the valve that tem­po­rar­ily redi­rected wa­ter from an El Prado’s well to Taos’s wa­ter sup­ply. Both El Prado and the town of Taos are par­ties to the Abeyta Wa­ter Rights set­tle­ment.

The Abeyta Wa­ter Rights set­tle­ment was years in the mak­ing, but 2019 looks to be the year that some ideas writ­ten into the mas­sive court ne­go­ti­a­tion are fi­nally tested in the real world.

Most promi­nently on the land­scape is a deep-aquifer wa­ter well that is in the works. The El Prado wa­ter district be­gan drilling an ex­ploratory wa­ter well on the mesa on U.S. 64 west in May 2018. The first at­tempt at drilling that well was un­suc­cess­ful be­cause it pro­duced too much sand. The district moved up the road a cou­ple miles and are now try­ing for a sec­ond time. If the well ul­ti­mately pro­vides wa­ter, El Prado will re­quest the well be used to sup­ply the com­mu­nity wa­ter sys­tem.

In Sep­tem­ber, the town ac­cepted $2,830,201 from the fed­eral Bureau of Recla­ma­tion for its own wells. The town’s plan­ning phase, in­clud­ing ex­ploratory wa­ter drilling, could last around 18 months. But some in the com­mu­nity are or­ga­niz­ing op­po­si­tion to el­e­ments of the Abeyta set­tle­ment. A coali­tion of res­i­dents mounted a protest and prayer ac­tion in De­cem­ber. They are call­ing for an as­sess­ment of the cul­tural im­pact of the set­tle­ment.

Oth­ers say mit­i­ga­tion wells will be too ex­pen­sive to op­er­ate and pro­duce lower qual­ity wa­ter.

The Abeyta set­tle­ment is a wa­ter-rights agree­ment among Taos Pue­blo, Taos Val­ley Ace­quia As­so­ci­a­tion, the town and mu­tual do­mes­tic wa­ter groups.

Morgan Timms/The Taos News

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