At Sipapu ski area, a water transfer uphill?

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The notion of a transfer of San Juan-Chama Project water over on the Chama to Sipapu ski area would seem to defy geography and physics. But in the sometimes zany world of New Mexico water rights management, might it make sense on paper? Writing at La Jicarita, Kay Matthews explains the strangeness:

How, you may ask, can San Juan/Chama water, which comes from tributaries of the Colorado River through the Azotea Tunnel into Heron Reservoir and then into the Rio Chama, be transferred to the Rio Pueblo in a different watershed? It’s a simple enough question and the applicants seem to think the answer is just as simple: the 100 afy consumption at Sipapu will be offset by the release of San Juan/Chama water from the reservoir because both the Rio Chama and the Rio Pueblo are tributaries to the Rio Grande, ergo instead of 100 afy flowing into the Rio Grande from the Rio Pueblo it will flow from Heron Dam and the Chama River into the Rio Grande. Whether this is kosher—a depletion in one watershed with offsets in another—will depend upon the assessment of the OSE based on state water law.

Mattews’ piece is worth a click for a detailed look at how New Mexico’s water rights machinery grinds on.

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