The State Engineer, with the blessing of Governor Richardson and apparently at least one business group, is once against launching an effort to seize our water rights during the legislative session.
Currently, a landowner has the right to drill a well and draw three acre feet of water per acre of land. Now, they want to cut that back to one acre foot, and some want to cut it back even more. The rationale appears to come straight from the 1000 Friends of NM playbook:
It is reasonable to have a category of water right that is available on demand for legitimate domestic use. It is not necessary that each applicant be granted three acre-feet per year for such uses. Domestic rights should be reduced to a value that may vary from one part of the state to another based on availability and demand, but in any case should not exceed one acre-foot (325,829 gallons) per year. This amount is more than adequate to serve an average family’s needs.
Hey, what happened to a free enterprise democracy? Governor Richardson and his State Engineer appointee are signing on with these folks to limit us to what the government will determine as the amount “more than adequate to serve an average family’s needs.” (Sidenote: ACI, you can’t support this legislation and at the same time say, “ACI further believes water allocation can best be accomplished through the free market
system operating under the water laws of the state of New Mexico.”)
A cap on income to a level that is more than adequate to serve an average family’s needs? Maybe a limitation on land ownership to an amount that is more than adequate to serve an average family’s needs. Or perhaps, a restriction in home size to a size that is more than adequate to serve an average family’s needs. Oh, I know what’s next. We’ll follow China’s example and limit the number of children per couple to a level that the government deems adequate to serve an average family’s needs.
But wait, just like a ginsu knife infomercial, there is a more (subscription):
Gov. Bill Richardson and State Engineer John D’Antonio will once again ask legislators for the power to deny new domestic wells in critical areas.
What exactly does “deny new domestic wells in critical areas” mean. Let me try and draw you a picture. You live in a critical water management area, like say the East Mountains, and down the road, you want to build a house on land you own. Maybe you want to build a house for your children, so that your grandchildren will grow up nearby. Well, you apply to dig a well and your application is returned with a big DENIED stamped across the top. Why? The State Engineer was successful in passing legislation in 2005 that denies you the right to drill a well even though you had that right when you originally purchased the land. Not a very pretty picture, is it?