Friday, August 9, 2013



Here's page 3 of the Augustin Plains Ranch LLC website.
We'll have commentary about this page and their entire site
after we have two interviews next week with experts in the field.
The idea of replacing all of the water pumped from
the aquifer with rainwater they collect at the ranch is still
the most blatant upfront falsehood in their presentation.
There's other problems with their hydrology, but we'll
hold our peace until the pros weigh in on these matters.
If you'd like to see their entire presentation go to:
We'll be picking apart their info and reasoning
over the next few weeks, once we get more interviews.

A Sustainable Project

Augustin Plains Ranch, located approximately 150 miles southwest of Albuquerque, sits atop a portion of an ancient lake that holds an estimated 50 million acre-feet of water (see page 117 of Appendix D of the Southwest New Mexico Regional Water Plan). This water is pure and meets federal drinking standards.
To help accommodate New Mexico’s growing need for water, the Augustin Plains Ranch proposes to develop an eco-friendly water reclamation and transport project that will pump 54,000 acre-feet of water out of the aquifer every year and pipe it to New Mexico communities. The design is exciting as it takes advantage of the ranch’s unique location to enhanced recharge and replace all of the pumped water with rain water and snowmelt currently being lost to evaporation. No water mining would occur.

This “green” project will also have a zero carbon footprint. A hydroelectric power plant at an elevation of 5,800 feet would produce 75% of the energy required to pump the water from the aquifer. The balance would be produced by solar energy as the Agustin Plains are one of the areas of New Mexico with the best potential for solar energy. Gravity flow would be used to convey the water from the hydroelectric plant to the Greater Albuquerque Metropolitan Area.
DOWN from the Plains to Socorro,
and then UP to Albuquerque.
It reminds me of a drawing by M.C. Escher.
The concept of a "siphon" is behind getting the
water to Rio Rancho, Albuquerque, and beyond. 
The water would go down to Socorro, in the Rio Grande
Valley and then hook a left and run up the valley to
Rio Rancho, for instance.  Because Rio Rancho (5200 ft) is
lower than the location of their proposed hydroelectric plant,
 (somewhere at 5800 ft., which would put it between Magdalena
and Socorro), the water will be able to "run uphill" theoretically,
once it leaves Socorro (4600 ft) to go north.
It's the old siphon idea.  With a few twists.
(We'll see what the experts tell us.)
Here's an excerpt from a book of essays about
New Mexico titled The River in Winter by
Stanley Crawford of Dixon, New Mexico. 
The essay: "DANCING FOR WATER" -
is insightful and holds a message for those interested
in the San Augustin aquifer issue, as well as anyone
interested in New Mexico's water.
"Everyone has been startled at least once by the
miraculous imagery of the saying that water can be made
to flow uphill toward money.  It is the genius of the image that
it seems to settle for a moment the arguments that bring it
into play.  Everything has its price.  We live in a world of
buying and selling.  What else can we say?
Yet we also live in a world of other kinds of value,
and sooner or later we will need to ask whether it is good
for anything but money for water to be made to flow uphill,
and whether it is bad for streams, rivers, traditions,
communities, and even individuals.
Some time ago I sat in on a water rights adjudication
hearing in Santa Fe - my first, so I was able to pretend to view
 it through somewhat innocent eyes.
There was the small, cramped courtroom in the old stone
Federal Courthouse, probably not unlike courtrooms and
hearing rooms where these proceedings have droned on in
New Mexico for hours and days and months and even years
and decades. 
 There were the twenty-five or thirty silent, patient
defendants from the far north village of Questa, who were
landowners, working men, probably miners or former miners,
Hispanic all, dressed in plaid western shirts and cowboy boots.
There were the attorneys and legal assistants for the New Mexico
State Engineer Office, four in all, Anglos all, with their table
 covered with huge aerial photographs, yellow legal pads,
clipboards of lists, notebooks.  There was the defendants' table,
presided over by a lone attorney from Northern New Mexico
Legal Services and a volunteer assistant from Questa.
There was a tripod from which hung detailed maps of the
section of Questa being debated, with parcels of land blocked
out in green and red and pink.  There was the imitation wood
paneled box of the witness stand where sat, during my time there,
a succession of Mr. Raels and Mr. Valdezes.  There was the
judge, a kindly black-suited gentleman who patiently elicited
and presided over a river of minutiae about fences and culverts
and walls and houses and ditches and pastures and the placement
of this or that boulder, all of which made up the
substance of the proceedings.
What I witnessed for a few hours was the operation of
that legal mechanism by which water is prepared for its
eventual pumping toward money.  It has to have its claim
of ownership documented, it has to have its title quieted, it has
to be made merchantable, salable, which is what enables it to be
freed up from land, acequia, community, and tradition.
A horrendously expensive process in itself, this
elaborate preparation, as anyone can easily estimate by
calculating the legal hours, the research time, surveying time,
driving time, lost work hours for the landowner defendants,
and so on, that must go into a hearing of this sort, which
in this case lasted well over a week.
And this was a minor one at that, concerning some
relatively small parcels of land that had been left out of
a previous adjudication suit.  And in the larger sense there
may never even be an end result.  The number of readjudication
 suits being opened up suggests that the process
 may well be perpetual.  And who pays?
In a state with a regressive tax structure, the expense of it all
will be disproportionately born by those most likely to
suffer from its effects.  And wherever there has been an end
result, it has been to pave the way toward the dissolution of
the traditional connection between land and water, and to
break down the fragile webbing that binds water to land and to
 acequia and to what may be called community itself in the
rural areas of northern New Mexico.  In short, the adjudication
 of water rights is social policy disguised as something else. 
Yet there was something dully reassuring about the hearing.
No sparrow that fell thirty years before would be overlooked
by the court, no garden grown by a grandmother or tenant or
neighbor or friend, within living memory.  But before my eyes
 began to glaze over and my own memory set about sorting
through other lists, the grand oddness of it all flashed through
my mind.  There was something missing.  Questa was here, in
this courtroom, but also most obviously, in the deepest sense,
Questa was still where it was, spread out over the sloping land
a hundred or so miles to the north, in the shadow of the
northernmost peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range in
New Mexico.
  What we were looking at was a Questa that
had been evaporated out of its real setting to be reconstituted
here, in distilled form, on paper, in words spoken in the
courtroom - a Questa which had been driven through the
abstract filters of quantification and the law, depositing a
powdery residue of its real self in the courtroom.
The proper place for these hearings, I thought, should be
 in the very fields and orchards and gardens of the actual landscape,
 and they should be conducted while climbing fences, wandering
 down driveways, walking ditches, sitting on boulders, while
 eating and drinking, in the bright sun or the wind and the rain
and snow - not here, under flourescent lights, in air that has been
warmed too many times by the city's fevered lungs.
Water should go - we all know - to those who tend it, who use it,
who love it, who dance for it, and it should flow downhill from
stream to river, and river to sea.  Yet we have licensed our society
to scheme for it to flow toward those with power and money,
and we have turned over our public servants to them, we have
in effect given them the keys to the treasury so that no expense
will be spared in drawing lines, making maps, conducting research,
surveying boundaries, and filling vaults and basements
with mountains of legal testimony.
What is oddest of all - I thought as I regained an open sky
fretful with the sharp winds of a March afternoon - is that this
legalistic hairsplitting over water rights needs the long-term
ratification of the weather in order to work at all.  And the
weather, of course, is what no one can ever bring to court.
Being, I suppose you would say, above the law.  Capable, in
short, of rendering the vast social labor of adjudication
quite irrelevant - in these times of rapid climate change all
over the globe.  A kind of higher adjudication of the environment,
you might say, that could be trying to tell us that fooling
around with the elements is something we should think and
talk long and carefully about before anything else, and in
ways that make us all more neighborly, not less so."
 For centuries, Native Americans of the arid Southwest used a system of ponds and gravity-fed ditches (acequias) to grow crops with the little water they had. When the Spanish arrived in 1598, they were quick to adopt this system, establishing a unique tradition of irrigation and agriculture.
Below is a 26 minute program produced by KNME-TV (PBS)
Albuquerque, about the acequias in northern New Mexico,
narrated by Stanley Crawford, the author of the essay above.
It's very good - very New Mexico.

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