San Augustin Water Coalition, New Mexico

San Augustin Water Coalition
The San Augustin Water Coalition was formed when a foreign entity posed a threat to the
Augustin Plains water basin. The Italian owner of the Augustin Plains Ranch LLC
applied to the Office of the State Engineer to move 54,000 acre feet or water each year
from eastern Catron County to the Rio Grande 60+ miles away. This proposal has
generated more than 1000 protests from residents of Catron, Grant, and Socorro counties
(and some beyond those boundaries); federal, state and local government entities;
businesses; and Indian tribal governments. A largely rural area, sparsely populated, the
area must have resembled a third world country to the owners of the ranch, and they
proposed to exploit it for their own profit
The Coalition is a loosely defined organization, consisting of those persons who wish to
be a part of an organized protest. The By-Laws state:
“Membership in SAWC shall be open to any person or organization that supports the
purposes of this organization as stated in Article III.”
Article III states:
Section 1-Purpose. The purpose for which SAWC is organized is to protect the water
resources of the San Augustin and adjacent water basins, and the public welfare
and conservation of water associated with those water resources, now and in the
Section 2-Goals. SAWC works to accomplish the following goals:
1. Educate and inform the public about the protection of water rights and quality
and other water resource issues of the San Augustin and adjacent basins;
2. Raise money for water litigation and legal expenses for litigation associated
with the protection of water rights and quality and other water resource issues
of the San Augustin and adjacent basins;
3. Encourage participation in the Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC drilling permit
protesting process;
4. Encourage individuals to actively participate in local, state and federal water
legislation processes.
At first there existed an informal Steering Committee to monitor the process and it
morphed into a more formal Board that is now meeting regularly and setting policies. The
Board members are old time ranchers, new residents of subdivisions, and people like Ray
and me who don’t fit in either of those categories. We all realize that we have a stake in
helping each other. In addition to setting policies, we are raising money to meet
expenses, monitoring the progress of the application, and making contacts with other
like-minded groups and individuals around the State.
SAWC is incorporated as a non-profit organization under the laws of the State of New
Mexico and is looking into becoming a federal non-profit group.
Carol Pittman, Board Member, Datil, New Mexico

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23 Responses to San Augustin Water Coalition, New Mexico

  1. mary rakestraw says:

    Well done. Thank you for the effort you are putting behind this fight. I am one of the protestants and I greatly appreciate your help.

  2. We are a force of Thousands to be reckoned with as we bring people from all over New Mexico and the region to make our voice heard.
    We Love Our State and We Will Preserve Our Resources!
    Please Get Involve and Post Your Comments, “Your Voice Counts”!
    Forward this site to all your Friends!

  3. The West’s New Water Woes

    By John Fleck

    Journal Staff Writer
    BOULDER HARBOR, NEV. – The driest 11-year stretch in recorded
    history on the Colorado River has left a muddy, smelly bog at Boulder Harbor
    on Lake Mead’s western shore.
    Mead is the West’s first great reservoir, created when Hoover Dam in
    the 1930s plugged the Colorado River at Black Canyon in the harsh desert of
    the Arizona-Nevada borderlands.
    Hoover Dam and Lake Mead are testaments to the American 20th century
    notion that we are a great nation capable of great things.
    Today, Mead is a shadow of its former self. The water that filled
    once-busy Boulder Harbor marina is slowly disappearing, drained by enduring
    drought upstream and continued water use downstream.
    The boats are long gone. What remains is a useless dock at the end
    of a forlorn concrete boat ramp.
    As I stood alone at the harbor’s edge last month, hundreds of
    American coots, ungainly black birds, picked for treats in the shrinking
    pool of muddy water.
    One by one, harbors like Boulder, playgrounds for residents of
    nearby Las Vegas, Nev., have been abandoned, their boat moorings towed to
    deeper water in the shrinking lake.
    Hoover Dam is 500 miles from Albuquerque, but what happens there
    matters here. The Colorado River is water lifeline to seven Western states,
    including New Mexico. The triumphalism that began with Hoover Dam now
    extends to a spider web of dams, tunnels and canals that delivers Colorado
    Basin water across the West, including now providing Albuquerque drinking
    Since 2000, flow on the Colorado River has averaged 12 million
    acre-feet per year. An acre-foot (the ungainly measure Western water
    managers use to tally the liquid under their care) is enough to serve two or
    three average households for a year. Twelve million of them sounds like a
    lot. It would be, except that the allocation of the Colorado’s water, and
    the society we’ve built based on it, presumes an average flow of 16.5
    million acre-feet per year.
    The reduction to 12 million acre-feet is not the result of our dams
    and ditches diverting the Colorado’s water for human use. It’s the amount of
    water before we start moving it around. After we’ve finished using it, there
    is none left. Today’s Colorado rarely reaches the sea.
    The week I was in Nevada chasing disappearing water, a Colorado
    scientist published a new paper suggesting that what I was seeing could be a
    harbinger of things more serious to come.
    According to Aiguo Dai at the National Center for Atmospheric
    Research in Boulder, air on a warming Earth sucks up more moisture, leaving
    streams and rivers drier.
    With rising greenhouse gases linked to the warming, Dai argues that,
    globally, “human activities have contributed significantly to the recent
    drying trend.”
    The starkest part of Dai’s new work is a new set of maps showing
    projected drying around the world as greenhouse gases continue to rise. In
    the western United States, Dai’s work suggests normal conditions in the
    future are likely to look like our worst droughts of old.
    On Sept. 30, 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke from atop Hoover
    Dam to a national radio audience during its dedication ceremony.
    “We are here,” he told them, “to see the creation of the largest
    artificial lake in the world – 115 miles long, holding enough water, for
    example, to cover the state of Connecticut to a depth of 10 feet.”
    At today’s levels, Lake Mead spread over Connecticut would be more
    like 3 feet deep.
    Mead passed an ominous milestone last month. Surpassing the worst
    drought on record, Mead is now the driest it has been since is was first
    filled in the 1930s.
    Drought is only half of the story. While flows from upstream have
    dwindled, downstream use in the farms and cities of California, Arizona and
    Nevada has continued unchanged. This arguably can be viewed as a great
    success. The whole point of big reservoirs like Mead is to store water for
    use during a drought.
    But the system is reaching a breaking point. If the lake’s surface
    drops another 7-plus feet, Arizona and Nevada will begin to see their water
    How the shortage might affect New Mexico’s share is uncertain. For
    the next few years, Mead’s troubles are more of a problem for Lower Basin
    states than they are for us.
    But Jennifer Pitt of the Environmental Defense Fund pointed out
    during a congressional hearing in April that the states in the Colorado’s
    Upper Basin, including New Mexico, have not sorted out who gets what in the
    event the shortages get so bad the Lower Basin states issue a demand that we
    send them more water.
    Standing at the dam watching history being made last month, I tried
    to explain to one of the tourists the historic significance of what he was
    I told him the picture he had just snapped was a historic image –
    that Lake Mead had dropped to its lowest level since they built Hoover Dam
    in the 1930s. He looked puzzled.
    Him: “Why’s it so low?”
    Me: “Drought upstream. Water use downstream.”
    Him: “It’ll fill up someday.”
    One hopes.
    UpFront is a daily front-page opinion column. Fleck can be reached
    at 823-3916 or

  4. URL:

    Sunday, December 12, 2010
    What Will This Settlement Cost?
    By Paul White
    Pojoaque Basin Water Alliance Board

    Many questions have been asked repeatedly of our county, state and federal officials as well as to the Aamodt settlement negotiations team at various times over the past five years. No one has taken time to respond to what we think are valid concerns before the regional water system spelled out in the settlement agreement is built.

    Particularly disturbing to us is the fact that no one can produce a credible estimate of the cost of the entire system or how the county, state, or federal governments and, ultimately, how all the residents of Santa Fe County are going to pay for the system.

    A second critical set of questions involves who is going to run the water system and who will have the ultimate authority to raise rates, do repairs and govern it.

    The Bureau of Reclamation’s 2009 study of the project has warned that the system could ultimately cost more than officials anticipate. Review of cost estimates produced by the bureau were for study purposes only and are not design or implementation costs.

    According to that same report, “Developing final alignments for the 164 miles of pipelines in the Pojoaque Regional Water System was beyond the scope of the Engineering Report. Final alignments for projects such as this are developed in the design phase when the number and locations of users is known.”

    This then begs another question — are non-Indian landowners going to be justly compensated for running a pipeline though their property or will there be a general condemnation “for the public good?” And who will have the power to condemn non-Indian land?

    More finance questions: Will the county issue more bonds to pay for the system? Will the county hold a bond election on this issue? And exactly which county residents will have to pay the taxes to cover the bond issue for the system? What about residents of Edgewood, Madrid, Cerrillos, La Cienega and the city residents of Santa Fe, who will not benefit from it?

    On the governance issue, it has been proposed that only one member of the governing board for the regional water system will be non-Indian, and the other four will be from different pueblos. How can non-Indian county residents have adequate representation under such a system?

    For example, the county has applied for $218 million for the Tesuque-Bishop’s Lodge pipeline. If the state is putting up the money, and the pipeline will serve many non-Indian users, why will Pojoaque and Tesuque pueblos be responsible for the operation and management of this part of the project?

    A related question: who will determine price hikes and the costs for operation and maintenance, and will those costs be passed on to the water users?

    The water rights arithmetic in the settlement doesn’t add up. The Top of the World Farm wells, for example, are supposed to be retired and water rights transferred downstream. Those rights are in a perched aquifer, so how will they result in real “wet water” in the Rio Grande, from which the regional water system will draw? And won’t the recent Taos County moratorium on transferring water out of that basin affect the transfer of these water rights, which are situated near Questa?

    Moreover, the water system is supposedly to be designed to deliver 2,500 acre feet to the pueblos and 1,500 acre feet to non-Indians. However, the settlement calls for the county to provide only 750 acre feet to the system. Where is the other 750 acre feet going to come from?

    After the county sells some of its water rights from Top of the World Farms to the federal government, as planned, it will have only 600 acre feet. The county also has to offset 100 acre feet of Buckman water diversions for Tesuque Pueblo.

    Is it true that when you hook up to the regional water system, the county will then take your water rights and in essence sell them back to you or use them as credit for the water rights it lacks?

    These and the questions have been asked continuously since the negotiations started. Will anyone tell us the truth?

    The Pojoaque Basin Water Alliance includes parties to the Aamodt lawsuit.

    back to story page Printed from, a service of the Albuquerque Journal

  5. Ann Boulden says:

    I am one of the protestants. My husband, a WWII 100% Disabled Veteran, and I bought this property in 1989 in order to retire and have a peaceful life. We drilled our well and have had periods of the water table going down. At one point, our well dried up and we had to drill a new one. Our water table is not such that it can afford the type of useage the Augustin Ranch is proposing. If we lose our water, not only will the people who live here be affected, but the wildlife that makes this area so beautiful. The tax base will be very affected if people have to move out for lack of water; the ranchers, who supply a lot of our meat, will be put out of business; the Indian tribes in the area will be badly affected. There are many ramifications to this proposed aquirement of water and the State Engineer needs to think of all of these so a good decision for the people of New Mexico will be reached, not for the benefit of some foreign person or corporation.

  6. Laura Brush says:

    I too filed a letter of protest. This will probably be a long, drawn-out fight but one we need to continue. After air, water is our most necessary resource and to allow it to be thrown away would be irresponsible. And suicidal. Water is not a commodity that should be bought and sold so casually.

  7. Mary Katherine Ray says:

    I also protested the application. Our house well is 40 miles from the proposed water grab, but the extreme amount of water the application wants to remove would eventually impact us too. This application amounts to nothing less than water thievery and profiteering and should have been dismissed out of hand.

  8. OTCC says:

    This a a profit motovated water transfer, with no benefits to anyone in new mexico and will certainly have adverse effects on us who dwell in the San Augustine Plains and other acquifers.

  9. Registered Protester says:

    Many people moved to this area and invested their savings in their retirement dreams or started viable economic endeavors such as ranching, outfitting, and service industries; to give one individual the power to rip that asunder is criminal. No comphrensive acquifer or environmental impact studies have been done on this proposed water looting and for the State Engineer to grant this proposal simply to satisfy an outdated and flawed interstate pact is ridiculous. Ignorance is not bliss in this situation and can be no remedy for prior bad decisions. Water cannot be moved from acquifer to acquifer to be sold to the highest bidder to satisfy political deals made to protect the unchecked growth of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. How will the landscape look once the water table drops significantly, with no trees, shrubs or wildlife?

  10. Roger Thompson says:

    I read with, interest, the comments by some that they believe they, too, will eventually face the impact of the water table depletion. The fact is, at this proposed rate of draw-down, we have little indication of just how quickly we will feel the consequences. What we can all agree on, however, is that it will result in dry wells and will reduce the habitability of an already semi-arid land. Trusting in government agencies to care for residential interests, as well as those of our heritage of ranching, amounts to a “Pollyanna ” view of our situation. Ain’t gonna happen
    I am a protestant and I’m in it for the long haul. When I’m gone, I trust our children and grandchildren will care enough for the primitive beauty of this country to pick up the torch. Greed and more greed must NOT be allowed to interfere with clean air, adequate water, or the peace of mind we find in a single sunset, here.
    I have watched as the seeps in my little canyon have disappeared. I’ve seen 300+ foot wells go dry, and deeper ones drilled. I know people that have already gone past 750 feet in order to ensure adequate flow for household use. We are already in a water crisis that is likely to get worse. It could very well be the beginning of a long term event. I’m not a “global warming” advocate but I do believe in cyclical climatic events and in long-term shifts in weather patterns. It’s been shown to have happened here before and it may, now, be happening again. We can do nothing about that, save adapt or move on. I hope we can all adapt by judicious shepherding of this essential resource.
    To find out that we could fall victim to some money-grubbing speculator is unacceptable. If you haven’t already joined this fight, do it now. Let’s simply tell these thieves, ” Ain’t gonna happen “!

  11. APaul says:

    Let us learn from our past and not make another grievous error in an attempt to correct some other. Current water packs with Colorado and New Mexico promise water to Texas, Nevada, Arizona, and California. The packs were made when water was plentiful. The solution is to revise the original packs based on the current reality not to further cripple local ecosystems with another unsustainable solution.
    The water should be left where it is. Water is a precious resource necessary for all life and should not be subject to grandiose visions of profiteers. There is a baseline for how we should move forward so as not to totally destroy our life sustaining environment, and that is to consider environmental and ecological impact first, and only if all those concerns are properly dealt with, should we ever consider converting water into profit.

  12. pmp says:

    How dare a foreign entity try to grab our water for monetary gains. Without water, the people in Catron County will not be able to survive. What a shame that such a beautiful area will be destroyed!! The land will not be fit for man or wildlife. What a legacy to leave our future generations. The state engineers office should be ashamed of themselves for even entertaining this ridiculous application made by Bruno Modena.

  13. Janice Simmons says:

    This water is not “up for grabs”. We will not let that water go away for profit. We will not let that water go anywhere except where it belongs in New Mexico. Let’s get this case going and stop this ridiculous and absurd violation of our water rights. I am behind this coalition 100%.

  14. Clark Bishop says:

    The reality of the water supply dwindling is not a creation meant to put people in a state of fear but rather into one of change. The first and most important change is of course the hardest one and that is to change our way of thinking. The idea that we can keep growing and expanding is the CORE issue. As an educated and responsible society we can no longer ignore our present dilemma of wasteful use of water. We must unite in the fact that continuous growth must stop. The San Augustin Water issue clearly points to ignoring this need for change and seeks to continue our present state of thinking.
    The issue of taking the existing water that is in this area to expand the larger cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, leaving the people of the area where the water was taken, is criminal. If this water stealing is allowed to happen we as an “educated and responsible” people will cease to exist. Conservation of our water is not really a novel idea, however, it must be brought back.

  15. Jamie O'Gorman says:

    I live in a small town in Catron county,New Mexico.I am retired and have acute asthma. The climate here has helped manage my condition. I am living in an area where most of the people here are seniors. It is a beautiful mountain area, but it is extremely remote. Living here we all have to look out for one another and preserve the natural resources available to us.
    There is an attempt in process made by interest that not only live outside of our state. They live out of our country. They are trying to divert our water shed to sell to the highest bidder. The law of nature is”what goes up must come down”. If wells are drilled far below our 5 to 6 hundred foot wells, it will diminish our supply. Leaving us helpless and without are water table. This is nothing but a water grab for exchange for riches. Local water can not be tampered with, and must be left in place!A study must be made on the Aquifer prior to any judgment can be considered. Those living in other Countries have no vested interest in our country other then to draw resources for profit and gain.
    Jamie O’Gorman

  16. Carol Pittman says:

    We have been fighting an attempt to take water from our local area for three years. The applicant has said — at an official hearing before the State Engineer — that he has not had time to come up with data about the aquifer he proposes to take water from. Three years! Meanwhile our lives are on hold while we wonder if we will have water or if it will just flow away from us through a pipe to the Rio Grande. Please keep in mind that if it can happen to us it can happen to you as well. Do the urban areas really want rampant development which this water would enable? Please join us in our fight to keep local water in local places for the benefit of local people, local culture, and local way of life.

  17. Naomi Martineau says:

    When they suck the water dry out from under us, and we’re left with a dust bowl, what are we supposed to do – pick up and move to Albuquerque, where our water is?

  18. Wanda Parker says:

    My name is Wanda Parker and I own property in Catron County. Catron County is a beautiful, unspoiled place where people can enjoy living away from crowded cities and pollution. However, we now have a corporation that is attempting to draw huge amounts of water from our aquifer to sell to others. If their plan succeeds what are the resident supposed to do for water to drink or water their stock?. In effect, such a plan to suck that much water out from under a our delicate ecosystem would create a desert. The San Augustine area is dry enough without this wholly insane decimate the water table. Please refuse this enormous water grab for the sake of the current residents and future residents of the area.

    Wanda Parker

  19. Roger & Jeanne Daigger says:

    My wife & I are formal protestors to the application by Augustine Plains Ranch LLC for permits to appropriate underground water. Their request to install 37 wells with 20 inch casings thousands of feet in depth for the purpose of pumping 54,000 acre feet of water per year, if approved, will have a devastating effect on the entire area around the San Augustine Plains, and us specifically. We believe this application for water should have been summarily rejected for what it is: an attempt to steal the natural resources of all for the monetary gain of a few.
    We own two pieces of property in the Wildwood Subdivision Each piece of property has a well. The wells are currently producing enough water to provide for the needs of one family per property. I believe the approval of the above application will ultimately leave our property with no water, and therefore severely damage its value. We have many neighbors in this community who are in the same situation.
    In addition, allowing the depletion of ground water by any great amount will severely affect not only the commercial raising of livestock, but also the businesses dependent on the abundance of wildlife of the area. A large number of people come to this area each year from around the country to hunt and contribute substantially to its financial well being.
    The area’s use of water and its availability from wells has been relatively stable for a long time as determined by studies of the University of New Mexico. To allow the sudden appropriation of large amounts of water is contrary to the conservation efforts most of us make in our daily lives and should not be allowed.

  20. Sonia Macdonald says:

    As a senior of 78 yrs., after spending my retirement income on a well so that I can have clean water free of chemicals, I find that I may have to purchase my water from some future “company” which will be “chemicalised” because if the Augustin Plains Ranch is permitted to suck up all the water in the area, I believe that my well, as well as all the other wells in Datil, will go dry.

    Another problem will be the bark beetle. During droughts this destructive insect destroys our beautiful pinon trees. Large areas have been left dead and lifeless. I can just imagine what taking out the ground water will do to our forest.

    Sonia Macdonald, Datil, N.M.

  21. Cathy Packard says:

    I am writing in support of everyone trying to prevent the San Augustin
    water rights being diverted. This would affect my family in the
    following ways: I am afraid there will not be enough well water for my
    family and others that surround me. Also that it will affect our
    agriculture and cattle raising industry. New Mexico is a dry state and
    we need what water we have and cannot afford to supply other states. I
    hope you will consider this when you’re in session this week. Thank-you
    Catherine Kaiser Datil NM

  22. Chuck Hill says:

    If our government allows this water grab for quick profit by a wealthy, distant foreign investor go through, then there will be no further reason to trust government for any reason. Government, with its recent power and money grabs is already held in historically low esteem by a larger percentage of the population than at nearly any time in American history. If this outrage is allowed to continue, then as far as I and many others in Catron and Socorro counties are concerned there is NO further justification for the continued existence of government. Abolish it and the “lets make a deal” cronies who run it. If we’re gonna have to fend for ourselves as best we can, then lets at least eliminate the powers that encumber or ability to do that fending.

  23. This fight has just begun. New Mexicans have a history of standing up for our rights and I would not want to be facing us in a New Mexican stand off. Join, donate and fight these money grubbing High Plains Drifters, the developers and politicians who would take one of our greatest natural resources for short term financial gain. Mr. Modena why dont you grow a set and show up to one of our meetings here. If history is any indication of Italian resolve, after the first shot is fired they will give the Italian army salute …both hands in the air.

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