Public meetings scheduled for proposed domestic-well rules and
Beginning in February, the Office of the State Engineer will hold
public meetings around the state to discuss the new proposed domestic-well
rules and regulations released on January 3, 2006.
Until now, most well owners have been entitled to draw up to three
acre-feet of water per year. The new rules would cut that to one
acre-foot, unless the state engineer limits pumping even further
by declaring a territory to be a well-management area. Multi-household
water use is limited to three acre-feet. Metering will be required,
and the new rules say that the state engineer can cancel a domestic
well permit and proceed with enforcement action if the the owner
exceeds the diversion limit.
Public meetings are scheduled for Monday, February 6, from 6:30
p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at the Santa Fe County Government Building, Chamber
Room, 102 Grant Avenue, in Santa Fe, and Tuesday, February 28, from
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at TVI, Smith/Brasher Hall, 717 University
SE, in Albuquerque.
A public hearing on the proposed regulations will be held on April
21 from9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.at the Larazolo Auditorium, Runnels
Building, 1190 South Saint Francis Drive, in Santa Fe.
Written comments on the proposed rules and regulations should be
submitted to the Office of the State Engineer no later than April
7. After April 7, comments may be submitted at the public hearing
in Santa Fe. Written comments on the rules and regulations should
be mailed to the following address:
Office of the State Engineer
Attn: Paul Wells
P.O. Box 25102
Santa Fe, NM 87504
A copy of the proposed rules and regulations can be obtained from
the Office of the State Engineer Web site, www.ose.state.nm.us,
or by contacting Paul Wells, Water Rights Division, at (505) 827-6120.
New draft regulations for domestic-well permits protect senior water
rights and compact deliveries
—JOHN D'ANTONIO, PE,
NEW MEXICO STATE ENGINEER
Future smart growth in New Mexico depends upon strengthening and
enforcing New Mexico's system of water-rights administration to
protect existing water rights while making supplies available to
new uses. To that end, I have initiated new regulations for domestic
wells for household use to protect existing water rights from future
impacts that would be caused by new domestic wells throughout the
The statutory provisions governing domestic
wells have been a contentious issue in the past several legislative
sessions. Rather than attempting again to revise the process of
issuing domestic well permits through legislation, I am exercising
my existing authority to limit and condition domestic well permits,
by issuing draft regulations establishing new limits on the amount
of water that may be diverted under new domestic well permits. This
will be an open, public discussion available through the regulatory
process; my approach will encourage focused consideration of a limited
number of issues, which has not been possible by pursuing a single
comprehensive legislative enactment.
My goal is to introduce a regulatory means
for balancing the needs of new domestic groundwater users with the
protection of existing water rights, not to prevent New Mexicans
from having access to the water necessary for their household. The
access to water intended by the domestic well statute, for households
that are not within reach of an established water supply system,
will not be denied, provided there is water available.
As the first step in the rule-making process,
I have released draft regulations, which are available for public
inspection in all the district offices of the Office of the State
Engineer, and on our web site (www.ose.state.nm.us). Public hearings
will be held in January and February to receive comments. I urge
all interested New Mexicans to participate in this public process.
The resulting public input will be used to refine the final draft
of the regulations, which will be formally adopted following a hearing
in Santa Fe in the spring. It is my hope that the final version
will be clearer and fairer to all New Mexicans by the benefit of
this public participation.
The draft regulations raise the fees for domestic
well permit applications, establish a statewide limit of one acre-foot
per year (326,000 gallons per year) for new domestic wells, allow
expedited transfers of water rights into domestic wells, and provide
for the declaration of domestic well management areas. It is important
to note that the draft regulations do not affect the uses of existing
domestic wells or water-right owners, other than to protect their
future access to water, nor do they apply to stock wells or permits
for temporary uses.
The one-acre-foot limitation still provides
plenty of water for household use, as the amount currently used
statewide per household usually falls between one-third (105,200
gallons) and one-quarter (81,500 gallons) of an acre-foot per year.
On average, a New Mexico household accounts for 67 gallons per person
per day, which is 97,552 gallons per year (excluding use of swamp
coolers) for a family of four. Other than that limitation, the new
regulations do not impose any immediate limitations on new domestic
wells anywhere in the state. The regulations continue to provide
that the state will recognize any limitation on domestic wells lawfully
imposed by an order of a court or municipal or county ordinance.
In areas of the state where I determine that
additional diversions of water would threaten the supply of existing
water rights or the state's ability to comply with interstate compacts,
the regulations provide that I may declare a domestic well management
area. These areas meriting special water resource protection will
be identified by hydrological conditions and existing water demands,
not by political boundaries or other considerations. Within a domestic
well management area, which will require a subsequent formal rule-making
process, with public notice, comment and hearing, to establish,
the regulations provide that I develop area-specific guidelines
that will set lower limits on use from new domestic wells, and may
require the transfer of water rights prior to the approval of a
new domestic well permit. This process will also be carried out
in full public view, with full public participation, and subject
to all the conditions state law imposes on my rule-making authority.
This administration is committed to smart growth
across New Mexico. My administration of the waters of the state
will remain consistent with that commitment, while honoring my constitutional
obligation to protect existing water rights.
The task will become more difficult as New Mexico grows. The new
domestic well regulations I have posted will result in a valuable
tool to help me in meeting my commitments to serve smart growth
while protecting the rights of New Mexicans already putting water
to beneficial use.
The Office of the State Engineer is charged
with administering the state's water resources. The State Engineer
has power over the supervision, measurement, appropriation, and
distribution of all surface and groundwater in New Mexico, including
streams and rivers that cross state boundaries. The State Engineer
is also Secretary of the Interstate Stream Commission and oversees
its staff. The Interstate Stream Commission is charged with separate
duties, including protecting New Mexico's right to water under eight
interstate stream compacts, ensuring the state complies with each
of those compacts, as well as water planning.
Woodcutting permits available for Cibola Forest
Permits to cut firewood are now available for Cibola Forest.
“Because of the unusually warm and dry weather, we are giving
woodcutters an opportunity to go out and get wood early,”
said Tom Marks, timber staff officer on the Cibola National Forest.
As in previous years, there may be times when product removal will
be limited or suspended due to fire restrictions and closures or
The $20 personal permits now available are for specifically designated
areas and a maximum of four cords of dead and down firewood, as
well as dead standing piñon and juniper. Up to ten cords
of personal-use firewood per year are allowed per household. A maximum
permit time of thirty days for permits of four to ten cords allows
a firewood hauler some flexibility in scheduling trips to the forest.
Permits will not be available for the Sandia Ranger District.
Individual districts may announce when personal-use fuelwood permits
for standing green firewood become available. Commercial fuelwood
sales for amounts larger than ten cords will be advertised before
July 1. These sales, which require a sealed bid to be submitted
to the ranger district advertising the sale, as well as a performance
bond, are awarded to the highest bidder.
For additional information, contact any office
listed below or visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/cibola.
Permits may be purchased at:
• Cibola Forest Supervisor’s Office, 2113 Osuna Road,
NE, Albuquerque, 346-3900
• Mountainair Ranger District, P.O. Box 69, Mountainair, 847-2990
• Magdalena Ranger District, P.O. Box 45, Magdalena, 854-2281
• Mt. Taylor Ranger District,1800 Lobo Canyon Road, Grant,