Draining Aquifers to Extinction

Measurement data has shown regularly increasing drawdowns of aquifers in many, perhaps most, areas of the state,  This is visible particularly in "closed" basins that don't have regularly flowing rivers to provide recharge.  The State Engineer's rules do not currently provide a plan or mechanism to prevent (or delay) the aquifers' becoming dry or impractical to pump.

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Description of the Issue

In several areas of the state, New Mexico groundwater uses are substantially draining aquifers. There are no rules or plans to avoid the extinction of the aquifers in the not too distant future.  The original New Mexico plan for the future of the aquifers remains in place.  That plan allows groundwater pumping amounts from individual aquifers that would leave half of the stored groundwater in the aquifer after 40 years.

The historical and still-existing plan was developed based on the sole objective to provide water for economic activity.  Preserving water for future generations was not and is not a criterion.

Examples of aquifers that are being drained include the Ogallala Aquifer, the Mimbres Basin aquifer system, and Estancia Basin Aquifer. Irrigation is the principal use in all three areas. The local aquifers in the Placitas area are another example. Domestic wells are the principal use.

The costs to New Mexico's economy and people when aquifers are depleted will be very high yet the state has no plans to address this crucial problem, other than to import water from elsewhere. The Ute Reservoir pipeline from the Canadian River to the Clovis and Portales area will replace a very small fraction of current and historical groundwater pumping from the practically exhausted Ogallala aquifer. The cost is over half a billion dollars.

A New Mexico Bureau of Geology news article and open file report and a NM Political report detailed story describe the Ogallala aquifer depletion and future.

They also use the Ogallala Aquifer situation as an example of the importance of water data.

The Water Advocates point to the end of the Ogallala Aquifer as an example of the uncontrolled depletion of the water resource providing water to a large portion of New Mexico, with little consideration of the consequences.  What happens to the economy and the people when water is very limited? Is that what we want for the future of other closed basin aquifers and the New Mexicans whose water comes from those aquifers?