Archive for March, 2013

Mar 26 2013

NM: Mescalero water rights bill introduced

U.S. Representative Steve Pearce again introduced a bill to allow the Mescalero Tribe of southern New Mexico to lease unused, excess water. The new bill H.R. 1377.

“I reintroduced this legislation that passed the House last Congress,” said Pearce. “This bill gives the Mescalero Apache Tribe an opportunity for economic growth, and regional communities will be able to access desperately needed water.”

Mescalero Apache President Frederick Chino Sr. thanked Pearce for his work. “We thank Rep. Pearce for his leadership in reintroducing this bill and for his friendship and commitment to the Mescalero people,” said Chino. “The Mescalero Apache Tribe is working hard to ensure that the needs of the Mescalero people and surrounding communities are met, and that the region continues to grow and prosper. Water is one of our most important resources, and the Mescalero Apache Tribe Leasing Authorization Act will allow our Tribe to better manage our water, and allow us to work with our neighboring communities on water usage…The Mescalero Tribe also appreciates and acknowledges the City of Ruidoso, our neighbor and partner on this legislation.”

Ruidoso Mayor Ray Alborn emphasized the importance of the bill for the local community. “I appreciate the persistence of Congressman Pearce and the cooperation of the Mescalero Apache Tribe in working on this bill. Water is critical for all of us, and this bill is a huge step forward for the community. I am thankful for the hard work of Rep. Pearce, his staff, President Chino, and the Mescalero Tribe. The cooperation among all those involved has been excellent, and will benefit Ruidoso, the Mescalero Tribe, and the surrounding area.”

The legislation would permit the lease or transfer of water rights for a term of up to 99 years provided the lease or transfer complies with the laws of New Mexico. The bill both promotes economic growth and emphasizes self-determination rights for Native American communities. Revenue gained from leasing this water would enable the Tribe to invest in vital services for their reservation, such as infrastructure improvements, elder care, and scholarship programs.

Pearce introduced the bill in the 112th Congress, where it saw strong bipartisan support, successfully passing the House of Representatives.

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Mar 26 2013

NV: Diamond Valley groundwater development stopped

Published by under ground water,Nevada

Nevada State Engineer Jason King on March 26 issued an order declaring off limits any new groundwater appropriations in the Diamond Valley area.

He said that such applications “will be denied,” though he did offer a few exceptions: “Those applications filed for environmental permits filed pursuant to NRS 533.437 to 533.4377, inclusive. Those applications filed for diversion rate only with no corresponding increase in duty of water. Those applications filed for non-consumptive uses. Those applications filed to mitigate senior surface water rights that have been impacted by groundwater pumping under junior water rights.”

That followed up on his earlier designation of the Diamond Valley Hydrographic Basin, and declaring that within its bounds groundwater is being seriously depleted.

He went on to say, “the Nevada Division of Water Resources estimates the perennial yield of the Diamond Valley Hydrographic Basin at 30,000 acre-feet annually. … committed groundwater rights of record in the Office of the State Engineer greatly exceed the perennial yield. … the Diamond Valley Crop Inventory consistently shows the pumpage of groundwater within the Diamond Valley Hydrographic Basin is in excess of the perennial yield. … the State Engineer finds that conditions warrant the curtailment of new appropriations of groundwater within the Diamond Valley Hydrographic Basin.”

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Mar 26 2013

WA: Progress in processing Yakima requests

Progress continues to be made as the Department of Ecology evaluates pending requests for new water rights based on a U.S. Geological Survey study that shows how new groundwater pumping affects flows in the Yakima River.

Water right processing in the Moxee and Wide Hollow subbasins is winding down, and Ecology plans to begin reviewing requests for new ground and surface water permits in lower Kittitas County next. Work remains under way in areas of West Richland, Richland, and Badger Canyon in Benton County.

Applicants are asked to consider a number of options to help the agency in making permit decisions in the context of study results.

The USGS study indicates new groundwater uses will reduce flows in the Yakima River. Also, some local aquifers are declining in response to pumping by existing water users.

“We’re finding that most people are setting aside their requests for water – an option that provides them time to seek needed mitigation or consider other alternatives,” said Sage Park, a water resources manager with Ecology.

Out of 293 applicants contacted so far, 126 of respondents have requested that their water application be placed on hold. Another 48 respondents have withdrawn their application and 15 applications have been denied. The remaining applicants have yet to return information on how they would like their water request to be processed.

Completion of the USGS study and computer model in the fall of 2011 provided the best scientific information available to make water right decisions and for achieving mitigation. It resulted from a legal settlement with the Yakama Nation and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that maintain new groundwater pumping only worsens the total water supply in the basin.

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Mar 25 2013

NM/CO: Animas-LaPlata title negotiations continue

The Bureau of Reclamation, Navajo Nation, and city of Farmington, N.M. are continuing title transfer agreement negotiations for the Navajo Nation Municipal Pipeline, part of the Animas-La Plata Project. The meeting with the city is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, at the Farmington City Hall Executive Conference Room in Farmington, N.M. The meeting with the Navajo Nation is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 28, 2013, at the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Conference Room in Chinle, Ariz.

The title transfer agreements will convey title to each portion of the NNMP facilities or reaches of the pipeline to the Navajo Nation or the city.

All negotiations are open to the public as observers, and the public will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments pertaining to the title transfer agreement during a thirty minute comment period following the negotiation session.

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Mar 22 2013

CA: State cuts delivery estimate

Published by under California

The Department of Water Resources on March 22 decreased this year’s water delivery estimate from 40 to 35 percent of requested State Water Project water.

The reduced allocation is due primarily to a record dry January and February in Northern California, where key reservoirs capture water to supply millions of Californians. Weather so far in March also has been relatively dry. California normally receives more than 90 percent of its rain and snow from December through April.

Pumping restrictions this winter in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect salmon and Delta smelt also limit the ability of DWR to meet requests for State Water Project supplies.

November and December were relatively wet, but between November 1 and February 28, restrictions to minimize harm to native fish prevented DWR from pumping more than 550,000 acre-feet of water from the Delta to store at San Luis Reservoir. San Luis is a critical summer supply pool for the SWP and the federal Central Valley Project. As of late March the reservoir was 63 percent full.

If DWR did not have to rely solely on its south Delta pumping plant and had a north Delta diversion on the Sacramento River, as proposed by the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the department could have moved water to
San Luis Reservoir while meeting existing salmon and Delta smelt protections. The ability to divert that water in the wake of winter storms likely would have led to a higher allocation for SWP water supply contractors this year.

“We reduced pumping this winter to protect fish from reverse flows in south Delta streams that entrain fish and divert them from their migratory routes,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “The new intakes and habitat restoration proposed by the BDCP would mitigate this problem. These ongoing conflicts will continue until we fundamentally change the way we convey water from the Delta.”

Last week, the California Natural Resources Agency began releasing draft chapters of the BDCP, which aims to both halt the decline of native fish populations in the Delta and stabilize the delivery of water from the Delta. For more information, visit

The 29 public agencies that buy water from the SWP have requested slightly more than four million acre-feet from the project. Together, these agencies supply water to 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of farmland.

Today’s water delivery estimate may change if hydrologic conditions improve.

Water content in the snowpack, which begins to melt around the first of April, is 57 percent of normal for the date and 56 percent of a full season’s average.

Reservoir storage will help California cope with dry weather. Lake Oroville in Butte County, the SWP’s principal storage reservoir, is at 109 percent of average for the date (82 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity). Lake Shasta north of Redding, the federal Central Valley Project’s largest reservoir with a capacity of 4.5 million acre-feet, is at 103 percent of its normal storage level for the date (82 percent of capacity).

Reservoirs will supply most water needs this year, but successive dry years would bring drought conditions to some regions of the state.

The final allocation of SWP water in calendar year 2012 was 65 percent of requested deliveries. The allocation was 80 percent in 2011, 50 percent in 2010, 40 percent in 2009, 35 percent in 2008, and 60 percent in 2007. The last 100 percent allocation – difficult to achieve even in wet years because of restrictions on Delta pumping to protect native fish species – was in 2006.

Electronic snowpack readings are available on the Internet at:

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Mar 22 2013

CA: BuRec adjusts Valley supply

As a result of extremely dry conditions in California, the Bureau of Reclamation on March 22 announced an update to the Water Year 2013 water supply allocation for the Central Valley Project.

Following a wet start to the water year in November and December 2012, the January – March period is tracking to be the driest on record, resulting in a critical classification for both the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins based on the 90-percent exceedence forecast. Reclamation is announcing a decrease in the allocation for the following South-of-Delta water service contractors:

Agricultural water service contractors’ allocation is decreased from 25 to 20 percent of their contract supply.
Municipal & Industrial contractors’ allocation is decreased from 75 to 70 percent of their historic use.
The initial CVP allocation in February was low, based in part on pumping restrictions needed to protect threatened fish species under the Endangered Species Act; however, this decreased allocation for South-of-Delta contractors is based on the critical water year classification, the projection of reduced Delta inflows this spring, significant loss of reservoir storage to support pumping this summer and water quality permit requirements.

“We are facing a challenging water year, but we continue to look for opportunities to facilitate supplemental water supplies through water transfer and exchange programs and new arrangements that could lead to additional flows in the system,” stated Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo. “We are exploring all options to assist in alleviating the serious impacts of these drought conditions.”

The decreased allocations have occurred despite recent actions being taken by Reclamation to help shore up water supplies as described in the CVP Water Plan 2013, available at Some of these actions include the completion of the Delta-Mendota Canal/California Aqueduct Intertie in May 2012 and the securing of water to supplement CVP supplies as a result of the Yuba Accord.

“Reclamation continues working with our partners to find a comprehensive, long-term solution to achieve the dual goals of a reliable water supply for California and a healthy Bay Delta ecosystem that supports the state’s economy,” Murillo said. “It should be noted that the successful completion of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan would include a new diversion and conveyance facility utilizing state-of-the-art protections for endangered fish species, which would improve water supply reliability even in years such as this, while improving environmental conditions in the Delta.”

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Mar 22 2013

CA: Madera, Chowchilla transfer docs available

The Bureau of Reclamation on March 22 released a Draft Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact proposing to facilitate a temporary one-year transfer and exchange of up to 20,000 acre-feet of recaptured San Joaquin River Restoration Program Interim Flows from Madera Irrigation and Chowchilla Water Districts to the Red Top area. This action would occur during Water Year 2013, from April 1, 2013, through February 28, 2014. The need for the action is to reduce or avoid water supply impacts to Friant Contractors by providing mechanisms to ensure that recirculation, recapture, reuse, exchange or transfer of SJRRP flows occurs.

This proposed action assists in achieving the SJRRP Water Management Goal of the Stipulation of Settlement and the SJRR Settlement Act (part of Public Law 111-11) by allowing MID and CWD, Friant-Division Long-Term Contractors, to transfer water to the Red Top area.

The area for the proposed action is on the western side of Fresno and Madera counties in the San Joaquin Valley. This area, called Red Top, is a location south of Highway 152, near the areas of Avenue 18 ½ and Avenue 20 ½, near the Eastside Bypass and the San Joaquin River. The land use in the area consists of existing agricultural utilization for the growing of pistachios, vineyards and alfalfa.

The Draft EA and FONSI are available for a seven-day public review that closes at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 29, 2013.

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Mar 20 2013

TX: Caves found in Edwards Aquifer

Published by under Edwards Aquifer,Texas

In January of 2013, two boys exploring the construction site of a new residential development near Hwy. 281 and Loop 1604 discovered a 450-foot long cave that experts say may be the 5th largest in Bexar county. With large stalactites and numerous other types of formations, it rivals the natural beauty of show caves in the area like Natural Bridge Caverns. It was named Rock Dove Cave.

Aquifer advocates became alarmed after obtaining pictures of what they said was a large new sewer line transecting the roof of the cave. They claimed it would eventually leak, releasing raw sewage into the Edwards Aquifer. While the route of the new sewer line on plan drawings did indeed pass through the cave, the developer said it had already revised plans for sewer line to miss the cave and the pipe had only been put there to block an entrance and keep people out.

On March 14, in a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance asked the developer be required to remove all existing fill material and pipes. GEAA recommended the cave be thoroughly mapped by experienced geologists, and that sewer lines and trenching be moved to avoid the cave (see the GEAA letter).

As the site is outside the city limits, none of San Antonio’s aquifer protection ordinances apply, and the city can only comment on any remedies that might be proposed or approved by the TCEQ.

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Mar 15 2013

MT: Court holds depletion, not bias, was the cause

Published by under Montana

A water rights case decided in late February 2013 in the Montana Supreme Court is drawing heavy attention from a range of resource interests.

The court decided against Bostwick Properties, Inc., which in December 2006 filed for a use permit for a subdivision called Lazy J South along Highway 191, not far from Belgrade.

The water would come from the Gallatin River, which under Montana law is a “closed water basin,” so that no new surface rights can be granted and groundwater rights are strictly limited.

In his opinion, Justice Brian Morris summarized: “Bostwick Properties, Inc. sought a water use permit from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC). DNRC denied the water use permit. Bostwick petitioned for review by the District Court. The District Court agreed with DNRC that Bostwick had failed to prove no net depletion of surface water and lack of adverse effect, as required by § 85-2-360, MCA, and therefore Bostwick was required to mitigate its water usage in order to receive a water use permit. The District Court further determined, however, that Bostwick had submitted an adequate mitigation proposal, and, therefore, DNRC improperly had denied Bostwick’s permit application. The District Court further noted that DNRC had exhibited bias against Bostwick. The District Court separately affirmed each of DNRC’s findings, and so determined that any bias on the part of DNRC caused no prejudice to Bostwick. Bostwick appeals, DNRC cross-appeals, and we affirm.”

The closed basin aspect was significant in the decision:

“In order to receive a groundwater permit, Bostwick first had to provide a hydrogeologic assessment to determine whether its proposed groundwater usage would result in a net depletion of surface water. Section 85-2-360, MCA. Bostwick would have to mitigate its water usage if Bostwick’s proposed pumping of groundwater would result in a net depletion of surface water and adversely affect senior appropriators. Section 85-2-362, Bostwick offered alternatives to demonstrate that its groundwater use would not result in a net depletion of the Gallatin River surface water, or would not cause an adverse effect.

“Bostwick first proposed that its Pave and Infiltrate Plan would offset all proposed consumption and would result in no net depletion of surface water. Bostwick next proposed that no net depletion would occur because the hydrological connection between the aquifer and the surface water was too attenuated and any potential adverse effect was unknown. Bostwick argued that the amount of water that it sought was too small to result in an adverse effect. Bostwick also suggested that DNRC could terminate Bostwick’s water rights if Bostwick’s de minimus water usage actually harmed senior rights holders. Bostwick finally proposed mitigation in the form of purchasing Water Right No. 41H 226700, in the event that Bostwick failed to demonstrate no net depletion or lack of adverse effect.

“DNRC determined that Bostwick’s water use would result in a net depletion of surface water, and that Bostwick had failed to demonstrate lack of adverse effect. This determination required Bostwick to mitigate its proposed water use. DNRC further determined that Bostwick’s proposed mitigation, purchasing Water Right No. 41H 226700, was inadequate because the mitigation would provide only irrigation season water and would provide no non-irrigation season water. DNRC’s determinations that Bostwick had failed to demonstrate no net decrease and had failed to demonstrate a lack of adverse effect for non-irrigation season water required Bostwick to mitigate non-irrigation season water loss as well.”

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Mar 14 2013

NM: Pueblos sign water rights settlement

A water rights settlement agreement was formally signed by state and federal leaders on March 14 in Santa Fe, including New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. The landmark settlement will resolve the claims of the Pueblos of Nambe, Tesuque, Pojoaque, and San Ildefonso in one of the longest-running federal cases in the United States and a decades-long water rights adjudication in New Mexico.

This settlement was formerly signed by the Pueblos of Nambe, Tesuque, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, the City and County of Santa Fe, other non-Pueblo parties, and the State of New Mexico in 2006. Federal legislation was passed in 2010 authorizing the settlement and the construction of a regional water system to bring water into the Nambe-Pojoaque-Tesuque Basin in northern New Mexico. This settlement is known as the Aamodt Settlement after the first name listed in the water rights adjudication.

Leaders from all four Pueblos, State Engineer Scott Verhines, Attorney General Gary King, the Mayor of Santa Fe, Commissioner Kathy Holian and representatives for the County of Santa Fe, will be present to sign the conformed Settlement Agreement with Governor Susana Martinez and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar at a signing ceremony to be held at the Bureau of Indian Education Indian School in Santa Fe.

“New Mexico has resolved one of our state’s longest, most contentious water disputes which began in the late sixties. I am honored to sign the settlement and am confident that we have protected water rights; thereby providing certainty to all and ending longstanding litigation for our citizens. I am proud that the Pueblo leaders from Nambe, Pojoaque, Tesuque and San Ildefonso, the acequia parciantes, the federal government, the state representatives, and everyone involved have worked together to find a solution” said New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. “This is proof that we can come together, work out our differences, and come to a positive agreement on behalf of our citizens.”

“We are resolving decades of disputes, preserving the seniority of water rights for the Pueblos and protecting the rights of the non-Pueblo users. I am grateful for the hundreds of people and thousands of hours that have been dedicated to reaching this landmark agreement. I urge New Mexicans to continue working together as we implement the terms of this settlement and keep New Mexico moving forward.”

The Settlement is complex and is based on many key concepts including: The Pueblos agreeing not make priority calls against non-Pueblo users, provided the non-Pueblo users agree to one of several options outlined in the Settlement Agreement. A regional water system (pipeline) will be constructed to deliver treated water to Pueblo and non-Pueblo users in the basin. Connecting to the pipeline will be optional.

The United States will acquire 2,500 acre-feet of imported water per year in the basin for use by the Pueblos to compensate them for not fully exercising their rights to make a priority call. Santa Fe County is responsible for acquiring 750 acre-feet per year of imported water for the benefit of non-Pueblo users, and for a total supply of 1,500 acre-feet per year for use by non-Pueblo water users in the basin.

The Settlement Agreement and supporting documents are available for public review at the Office of the State Engineer’s website at:

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