Groundwater levels in Albuquerque are rising at the same time as water sources across much of the West are depleting. New research from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) indicates water levels in the aquifer beneath Albuquerque have reached the highest levels recorded since the USGS began mapping groundwater in the area in 2002. The trend began in 2012, when groundwater levels near Albuquerque began rising compared to historical conditions, and despite below-normal annual precipitation, according to maps produced by USGS. In 2016, USGS maps indicated “relatively high” levels of groundwater. At the same time, USGS noted that groundwater level declines, called drawdown, have reduced significantly.
According to USGS hydrologists Amy Galanter and Andre Ritchie, that means the aquifer system that Albuquerque has relied on to supply drinking water to residents since the 1950s is rebounding after more than twenty years of efforts to restore it.
Depleting groundwater across the country
Groundwater levels have dropped significantly across much of the West in recent years, impacting food production and drinking water access.
As severe drought returns to New Mexico, farmers and skiers alike fret over the state’s lack of snow. Meanwhile, on a cold, cloudy Monday morning in Washington, D.C., attorneys for New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and the United States government grappled over the muddy waters of the Rio Grande. In its U.S. Supreme Court case against New Mexico and Colorado, the State of Texas says that by letting farmers in southern New Mexico pump from wells near the Rio Grande, our state has failed to send its legal share of water downstream. The water fight has some New Mexicans gnawing their nails—and not just southern farmers whose water rights could be cut if Texas prevails. See all of NM Political Report’s stories on Texas v. New Mexico to date. Monday’s oral arguments before the court, over whether the feds can intervene under the Rio Grande Compact, drew a large crowd from the Land of Enchantment.
Almost 100 people packed into the Catron County Courthouse in Reserve, N.M. last week for a hearing about plans to pump groundwater from beneath the Plains of San Agustin in southwestern New Mexico. Augustin* Plains Ranch, LLC wants to pump 54,000 acre-feet of water—more than 17 billion gallons—each year from the aquifer and pipe it to commercial or municipal water customers hundreds of miles away. The state has rejected similar applications from the company twice. Now, a third application is pending before the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, which administers the state’s water resources. The final decision will lie with the State Engineer, a position currently held by Tom Blaine, who was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez three years ago.
Mayor Richard Berry’s administration said Tuesday that construction on the $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project along Central Avenue will begin in late July. The initial construction will take place in the University of New Mexico area between Girard on the east and Cedar on the west, and then in the downtown area from I-25 to 10th Street. The initial ART line will run from Louisiana on the east to Coors on the West Side. The construction team is being led by Bradbury Stamm Construction, and the team “is planning to avoid construction in Nob Hill and Old Town during the holidays and is working closely with event planners to coordinate construction with key events,” the city said in a news release. Whether that construction actually begins will be up to a federal court judge.
The traffic jams that many predicted would come with Mayor Richard Berry’s Albuquerque Rapid Transit project have already begun, even though two lawsuits have been filed to stop the project. The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority began relocating water lines Tuesday and Wednesday on opposite ends of Central Avenue in anticipation of ART construction. Work at Central and Old Coors Road on the West Side began Tuesday, and work at San Mateo and Central on the East Side began Wednesday, said ABCWUA spokesperson Patti Watson. This originally ran in the ABQ Free Press
The work at both locations has traffic on Central and its cross streets reduced to one lane in one direction. At San Mateo and Central, eastbound traffic on Central was funneled to one lane for at least four blocks west of San Mateo.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]DR. VIRGINIA NECOCHEA is the Executive Director of the Center for Social Sustainable Systems and an organizer with the Contra Santolina Working Group.[/box]
The Albuquerque Journal’s editorial board is at it again. Many of us wonder if it is at all possible for them to write a piece that at minimum veers more towards a neutral stance rather than their usual favoritism towards developers and monied interests. As someone who has sat through almost every single hearing on the Santolina Master Plan, it becomes quite obvious that the Journal’s editorial board has not been present. Their latest piece titled – “Water worries overblown concern for Santolina,” clearly demonstrates their severe lack of what has been defined by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) as ethical journalism. SPJ states, “ethical journalism should be accurate and fair.
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) Governing Board may decide on Wednesday to ease up on fines for residents who waste water. According to the meeting agenda, the board that oversees rate and rule changes is set to vote on a two-year pilot program that would focus on education instead of fines for wasting water. Katherine Yuhas, ABCWUA’s water conservation officer, told New Mexico Political Report the idea behind the pilot program came from talking to customers and realizing they wanted more education when it came to water waste. She said generally, residential customers are conscientious of water waste and fix leaks promptly. “The idea with this legislation is to say, ‘Ok, what if they didn’t even need a fine?,’” Yuhas said.