Thursday, February 12, 2009

NM water rush: Deep aquifers sought for metro growth

It's been called a modern-day gold rush. But the free-for-all isn't for sparkling bits in a stream, it's for the water - deep underground and salty - that developers and politicians hope will help keep New Mexico's metro areas growing. In Albuquerque and Santa Fe, developers and local governments have staked claims to more than 350,000 acre feet of brackish water in deep underground aquifers since 1997. But the vast bulk of those claims - amounting to roughly 325,000 acre feet - have been filed in the past year. One acre-foot equals 325,821 gallons, which can meet the annual water needs of two U.S. households. In southern New Mexico, the city of Las Cruces and two companies in Otero County also have claimed 35,000 acre feet of water from deep aquifers in the past two months, according to the state engineer's office. Brackish water in deep aquifers has little state oversight because of a loophole in state law that gives the state engineer jurisdiction of water above 2,500 feet unless it has a salt content of less than 1,000 parts per million. "Basically, right now with the way the laws are, it's just a free-for-all," State Engineer John D'Antonio said. D'Antonio is pushing for a change in state law this legislative session to give his office jurisdiction to salty water in deep aquifers...AP

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