Ranch family takes water fight to NM Supreme Court

NM water fight

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Despite recent rains drenching much of the state, New Mexico is still in a drought and as usual water is precious. That’s especially true for ranchers in rural New Mexico. They rely on rain and well water to sustain their crops, but now a company owned by a group of people who live in Italy could change all that.

“It would destroy their water rights and destroy the way of life that’s why they’re concerned,” said New Mexico Environmental Law Attorney Bruce Frederick.

About 150 miles southwest of Albuquerque is a piece of land known as the Augustin Plains Ranch. The ranch sits on an untapped aquifer that experts say could have as much water in it to supply parts of New Mexico for centuries to come.

“We really need to be looking at all potential sources of water for the future and this has an incredible potential to satisfy a lot of the water needs of the state,” said Augustin Plains Ranch Project Spokesperson Whitney Waite.

The ranch wants to pump water from the aquifer into the Rio Grande Valley where water supplies seem to be dwindling. They’ve applied for an application for a permit to pump, reclaim and then transport 54,000 acre-feet of water per year from its location near Magdalena, New Mexico. Monday, a pair of ranchers represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center asked the state Supreme Court to take up the case saying what the company is doing is illegal.

“What they want to do is stake a claim in a tremendous amount of water and then sell it to the highest bidder in seven counties and that’s just again it’s unconstitutional,” said Frederick.

The ranch says it’s doing something beneficial for the state.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for the people in New Mexico,” said Waite.

The company applied for the permit two years ago, but the state rejected the proposal because the application lacked details. It was one of the most contested filings in the history of the state engineer’s office.

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