District 5

Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty Supports the Office of the State Engineer’s Order to Close the Sandia Basin to New Water Rights Applications

03/15/2021

Effective immediately, the Office of the State Engineer today announced a closure order that prohibits applications for new water rights throughout the Sandia Basin and in areas immediately north of the Sandia Basin and within Sandoval County.

The Office of the State Engineer’s order is designed to keep the water level decline from getting worse due to newly-approved water rights that would add to the water being pumped from the complex underground aquifers of the East Mountain area.

Under the order, use of existing individual domestic wells continues unchanged, as does the ability to drill new or replacement domestic and livestock wells.  The order does not impact existing water rights holders in the area, nor does it adversely affect existing operations of the  public water systems, which supply potable water for many in the community.
 
“Water level data from the Bernalillo County Water Level Monitoring Program, as studied by the Office of the State Engineer, indicates that the average rate of water level decline in the closure area currently exceeds 2.5 feet per year, ” says Bernalillo County Commission Chair Charlene Pyskoty.   “That’s very concerning for residents in my district. Those of us who live in the East Mountains are breathing a sigh of relief knowing the Office of the State Engineer has taken an important step to limit unsustainable use of water in the Sandia Basin.”

The  data on the water level decline can be highly variable due to the area’s complex geohydrology.   Existing groundwater basin administration guidelines elsewhere in New Mexico do not allow a maximum allow rate of decline exceeding 2.5 feet per year.  The Office of the State Engineer has previously closed several basins in the state where the life expectancy of numerous wells is 40 years or less, as is the case in many portions of the Sandia Basin.  

The data studied by the Office of the State Engineer includes water level data collected since 2007 by Bernalillo County Natural Resources staff and, more recently, by the citizens of the San Pedro Creek Estates in Sandoval County.  Without those efforts, the Office of the State Engineer would not have had sufficient data to make a closure determination.  

“This Office of the State Engineer’s closure order is a significant change in the administration of the Sandia Basin and represents the hard work of many East Mountain residents and county staff to protect the limited water resources of the Sandia Basin.  I would like to express my appreciation to the county’s Natural Resources staff and to all East Mountain residents who have voluntarily allowed county staff to monitor those individual domestic wells and to all  those who have participated in the county water conservation incentives,” states Pyskoty.

The county’s water level monitoring program will continue, and additional water conservation incentive programs will soon be available to county residents.  

 

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