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Watch Out, Here Comes the County

Following in the footsteps of the State Engineer, the Bernalillo County Commission is taking the first steps toward government intrusion (subscription) on private property water rights.

Commission Chairman Alan Armijo said it’s time for the county to promote conservation. Residents hooked up to the municipal water system are already subject to conservation rules.

“I think it’s real important we set out a program” for the rest of the county, said Armijo, whose district includes the West Side and North Valley. “Water is not just an issue within the city but everywhere in the county.”

Armijo said he hopes to start with an education campaign about the need for conservation before considering mandatory measures.

Customers of the municipal water utility – which is overseen by the city and county governments – are prohibited from daytime watering in the summer, when the heat evaporates much of the water. They are also barred from letting their water spill into the street.

Fines start at $20 and escalate to $1,000 for repeat offenders.

But residents who have their own wells in rural parts of the county don’t face fines or other sanctions for wasting water. It would be difficult to crack down on people who have private wells and water rights, county officials have said.

It wouldn’t just be difficult. It would be impossible. Unless, of course, you required everyone on a private well to install meters, and then charged or fined them for water usage over a certain amount. Of course, if this amount is less than their allotted three acre feet per acre of land, this would be an unnecessary seizure of private property rights.

See, unlike municipal water users, people living in the county are very much aware that if they use too much water, their well goes dry, and then they have to spend a great deal of money to drill a new well. Chairman Armijo, according to the water use tables, focusing on residential water use in the county is pointless. I hope you aren’t spending too much of my tax money on that unnecessary study.