LAS CRUCES – A Doña Ana County water battle that over the years has pitted farmers against one another, as well as the state, could soon be resolved.
Four groups involved in a landmark water trial in the 3rd Judicial District last week reached a tentative, out-of-court settlement about how much water can be applied to crops yearly in the Lower Rio Grande Basin, said several attorneys for the groups.
The proposal would set a 4.5 acre-feet-per-acre cap annually on combined groundwater and river water use for agriculture, according to the document.
At the heart of the dispute was what’s called the “duty” of water. It’s a per-acre cap – both on groundwater and river water. It’s one of the major components of adjudication, a legal process that determines key aspects of water rights throughout an entire basin.
The tentative agreement is complex, and is actually the result of years of work leading up to this point, said D.L. Sanders, lead attorney with the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer.
“It addresses an issue that has been sitting out there since the adjudication was filed in the ’80s,” he said. “It’s huge. Quite frankly, I didn’t think we’d ever get a settlement.”