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Carlsbad farmers move to shut down upstream neighbors’ water

CARLSBAD – The leaders of the Carlsbad Irrigation District voted this afternoon to demand the state of New Mexico shut off groundwater users upstream in the Roswell and Artesia areas to protect Carlsbad-area farmers’ right to Pecos River water.

With the third year of deep drought hovering over New Mexico, the unanimous vote by the irrigation district’s five-member board marks the most serious confrontation this year between New Mexico water users scrapping over increasingly scarce supply.

At its worst, the “priority call” could force a large number of groundwater users in the Roswell and Artesia area, including farms, cities and industry to shut down their the pumps that supply their groundwater.

The board’s vote is the latest and most serious volley in a longstanding water conflict between farmers in the Carlsbad area, who largely depend on water from the Pecos River, and farmers to their north in Roswell and Artesia, who use groundwater.

The downstream farmers have long complained that the Roswell-Artesia pumping is slowing draining away water that would otherwise flow in the Pecos to their farms.

Carlsbad-area farmer Oscar Vasquez, a member of the board, said that last year was the first time in 37 years of farming that he failed to produce a single bail of cotton on his 400 acres.


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“If it doesn’t rain, we’re not going to get any water,” Vasquez said during a meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Irrigation District’s office amid farm fields southeast of Carlsbad.

Meanwhile upstream, pumps in the Roswell-Artesia part of the Pecos Valley were running full blast this week, creating a contrast between water haves and have nots.

Aron Balok(cq both), director of the upstream water district that would be hit by a priority call, said any move to shut down groundwater pumping would be “cataclysmic” to the region’s economy.

I’ll have more in tomorrow’s paper.