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New Mexico Science

Science, climate, weather and water from a New Mexico perspective

Where’s the Augustin Plains Ranch water coming from?

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In a news release Monday, the folks behind the Augustin Plains Ranch water pumping proposal made an intriguing new claim about their project.

To refresh memory, these are the folks who want to drill wells on a ranch out near Datil and pump groundwater to the Rio Grande Valley to meet as yet unnamed needs there. The project has raised strong opposition among the rural ranch communities, who fear pumping down the aquifer in the area will lower the water table in the surrounding area, making it harder for everyone who pumps water there. The ranch folks say that won’t happen. The project has been maddening to cover in part because there is, as yet, no detailed publicly available hydrologic study of the basin available to allow us to examine the ranch’s claim that it won’t hurt its neighbors.

In his press release, project spokesman Tom Carroll made this claim:

Augustin’s initial hydrology investigations have shown that the Augustin Basin sits on a large underground supply of water, said Carroll. Much of the aquifer recharge is currently lost to evaporation. (emphasis added)

In other words, the project’s backers are claiming the water they are pumping would otherwise simply be evaporating. That would make it free water, sort of, and bears a striking resemblance to the claims being made in a very similar project in the deserts of eastern Californa. But the claim had the independent hydrologists I talked to this week scratching their heads in puzzlement. I called Carroll to ask for a copy of the hydrologic analysis that had lead to such an intriguing conclusion. He said I could have it soon. But in the meantime, I’m leaving the claim out of my newspaper stories on the topic, until the project’s backers put a little more scientific substance behind their claim so it can be evaluated by others.

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