“What this plan does is match the amount of groundwater pumping to the amount of water coming into the subdistrict.”
– Subdistrict 1 attorney Pete Ampe
(above right, addressing members of the water conservation district Board of Directors)
THE Rio Grande Water Conservation District Board of Directors gave unanimous approval Tuesday to an amended Plan of Water Management for its Subdistrict 1 that relies on covering any groundwater withdrawals with natural surface water or the purchase of surface water credits.
The plan is the fourth amendment to an existing Plan of Water Management that tasks farmers in the subdistrict with recovering the unconfined aquifer of the Upper Rio Grande Basin. It will be sent to the state division of water resources for review and then comes back to the Rio Grande Water Conservation District board for a public hearing and a final vote.
“What this plan does is match the amount of groundwater pumping to the amount of water coming into the subdistrict,” said Subdistrict 1 attorney Pete Ampe.
The subdistrict has reduced its pumping by one-third in efforts to recover the aquifer, but the unconfined aquifer is not recovering and is near its lowest point ever, Ampe said.
Farmers in the subdistrict expressed support for the plan, including a $500 per acre-foot overpumping fee that farmers would pay if they exceed the amount of natural surface water tied to the property in their farming operations.
Farmers who do not have natural surface water coming into their property can purchase surface water credits from a neighboring operation to offset groundwater pumping irrigation.
“I wish this was the first plan,” said Willie Hofner, a flood irrigator farmer in Subdistrict 1.
The new amended plan stops the overconsumption of the unconfined aquifer, said Jake Burris, a member of the Subdistrict 1 board of managers. “Time is not on our side. This plan is our best opportunity to deal with the problem almost immediately.”
The Rio Grande Water Conservation District Board of Directors agreed and sent it along to the state for review.