TAOS VALLEY WATER PROTECTION PETITION
The Petition Proposal is a proposal intended to encourage a dialogue for practical and money saving alternatives to the proposed deep wells of the Abeyta Settlement. We hope this proposal will evolve with input based on the needs of individual settlement parties and the greater good of the community.
The Abeyta Settlement is the adjudication of Taos Pueblo's water rights and was finalized in October 2016. As First People of the Taos Valley, the People of Taos Pueblo have the most senior water rights, so the Settlement ensures that Taos Pueblo is entitled to around 12,000 acre feet of water.
The concern is not with the adjudication of water for Taos Pueblo, but rather with the details of distribution and delivery of water in the Taos Valley. Primary concerns with the details of the settlement are 1) the extensive alteration of water in the Taos Valley that would be caused by the drilling at least 13 deep wells (1,000-3,000 feet deep) and 2) the unknown impacts to water quality, to the groundwater aquifers, rivers and soil of our Taos Valley related to those deep wells and 3) the financial impacts of operating these deep wells which may overwhelm the finances of the acequias.
The settlement plan specifies the drilling of 9 wells that are at least 1,000 feet deep near the mountains and across Taos Valley at the top of acequias near their diversions from rivers. One purpose of these wells is to mitigate any negative impacts from drought or heavy pumping of lower deep wells. If the water table drops or river water disappears, these mitigation wells would be turned on to restore water to surface water systems.
We have serious concerns that these deep wells, when drilled, may perforate shallower ground aquifers and allow mixing of aquifer water layers that would impact the shallower sites where many people have domestic wells. This has already occurred with a Town of Taos 3,200’ deep well in Los Cordovas. Geologists such as Paul Bauer and Tony Benson and hydrologists such as Mike Darr have said that the ground aquifers are interconnected. Time after time, when deep wells are drilled, they dry up and impact shallower aquifers. This could, in the end, even dry up the Taos Pueblo Buffalo Pasture as water levels drop from the pumping of deep wells. Once these wells are drilled, the damage may not be possible to reverse.
The chemical composition of deep well water is unknown until you drill. Each deep well is expected to cost approximately two million dollars. If the wells draw up water with high levels of toxic minerals such as fluoride, uranium, arsenic, or heavy calcium carbonates, they will need to be treated and the citizens of our area will bear that cost.
The petition proposal suggests the installation of water guages (on a negotiated, case by case basis) to allow individual acequias and parties to provide real-time, objective data to avoid disputes between water-sharing parties. Guages are not suggested throughout individual acequia systems - only at shared diversions from major rivers. The purpose of guages is only to confirm that each party receives their confirmed share of water allotments as defined by the Abeyta Settlement.
Although the Abeyta Settlement decree has been finalized, application for these deep well projects must be made on an individual basis. These deep wells have at present been mandated without genuine opportunity for prior public feedback. The settlement agreement provides (Abeyta Settlement, Article 13.3) for the parties to "reconvene and negotiate in an attempt to agree on modified or alternative projects or measures that are otherwise consistent with this settlement agreement" if the projects are infeasible or do not receive necessary permits. Further, if the mitigation well system fails or is not used, the Abeyta Settlement states "that the water rights owning parties shall reconvene and negotiate terms and provisions which will provide mutually acceptable alternative solutions". At this time our community should consider invoking Article 13.3 of the Settlement to determine if these deep wells make sense for our future water sustainability.
Our survival in this desert depends on our precious natural water system. To alter this system without knowing what the long-term repercussions is dangerous.