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Editorial: Santolina plan holds H2O

Some see it as positive growth, a project to help the city of Albuquerque prosper. Others see it as urban sprawl, a taxpayer-subsidized development that will end up hurting Albuquerque’s core.

The tug of war over Santolina – a 13,700-acre planned community in southwestern Bernalillo County that at full build-out could be home to 96,000 people, about the size of Rio Rancho – has been playing out for years before the Bernalillo County Commission, state Legislature and in the courts. Now the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority is weighing in, but instead of taking sides, authority officials have approached the project with pragmatism. That’s great news for our community because the last thing we need is more politics surrounding this project.

The water authority told Santolina it will need to pay its own way for water and sewer services, meaning pony up $600 million in today’s dollars over the 50-year build-out to pay for infrastructure needed to treat arsenic-tainted ground water. The development will also be subject to strict conservation limits.

Kudos to water authority officials for protecting the interests of current water users while staying above the fray. If Western Albuquerque Land Holdings wants to move its Santolina project forward, it must be willing to cover the costs for the infrastructure needed to service the development and limit its water use.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.