Legislators Listen To Water Concerns


Legislators Listen To Water Concerns

Staff Report

The Rio Arriba Association of Water Users invited area legislators to attend a “water meeting” on Thursday, Dec. 3 at the Chamita Community Center to discuss issues, challenges and some possible ideas and solutions with representatives from surrounding county water systems.  Six of Rio Arriba county’s 38 water systems were represented at the meeting.  They include: Chamita, Velarde, Vallecitos, Agua Sana, Ojo Caliente and Truchas.

Joining the meeting were three legislators from the Rio Arriba county delegation, Senator Richard Martinez, Senator Carlos Cisneros and Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard, as well as the deputy county manager, David Trujillo and county planning and zoning director, Lucia Sanchez.

The topics discussed ranged from issues the mutual domestic water systems have due to their aging infrastructure, lack of administrative support and paid staff, increasing demand for usage, dangers of water pollution and the ever growing burden of regulatory compliance required by state and federal governments. 

Among many of the possible solutions discussed was the regionalization of the county’s water systems into an umbrella organization, the Rio Arriba Association of Water Users.  This organization could aid in some of the administrative and operating duties each system faces through taking advantage of economies of scale. 

The attempt at regionalization was originally begun back in 2012 according to Juan Sanchez, president of the Association.  Currently, members of the Association are attempting to recruit all of the water systems in the county to join the association citing “strength in numbers”. Legislators agreed that regionalization would be beneficial to the survival of the mutual domestic water systems of the area, some of them serving only a handful of households.

Senator Martinez noted that due to the large number of capital requests that legislators receives each session and the limited amount of resources available for capital outlay, it makes it easier to appropriate money when systems are represented by one organization, with a list of prioritized requests.

Senator Cisneros mentioned legislation he carried in the past that limits the transfer of water rights out of a district or watershed as being integral to helping water systems retain their water rights for local users.

Quoting the text of a recent resolution passed by the Association, one water system member described water as being a “basic human right”.  “It’s not until the State of New Mexico recognizes water as being a basic human right that we will be able to solve some of these issues”, he said.

After legislators left association members discussed continuing efforts to organize and plans to hold similar meetings with county commissioners.