Middle Rio Grande pueblos seek to quantify water rights - Albuquerque Journal

Middle Rio Grande pueblos seek to quantify water rights

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANDIA PUEBLO – The six pueblos that share the Middle Rio Grande are in the earliest stages of a legal process that could quantify their water rights, tribal and state officials said Monday.

Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuart Paisano told state lawmakers at the Water and Natural Resources Committee meeting that “it’s time” to determine the specific amount of water that should be allocated to regional pueblos.

“It’s going to be a huge task,” he said.

Paisano chairs a water coalition of Cochiti, San Felipe, Santo Domingo, Santa Ana, Sandia and Isleta pueblos.

At least twice in the past decade, the coalition has requested that a federal team from the U.S. Interior Department assesses the feasibility of settling their claims to the river.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland approved that team earlier this year.

Josh Mann, a water lawyer and former Interior Department attorney, said the agency may be reluctant about a negotiated legal settlement.

The Middle Rio Grande Basin has not been adjudicated.

That means a court has yet to formally outline which entities have water rights in the region.

Adjudicated basins are governed by a court decree and all entities are legally bound to the water rights defined in that order.

“When you don’t have that process, you’ve got to come up with another way,” Mann said. “There is no precedent for this. This has never been done anywhere in the U.S.”

The water lawyer said the process will likely demand such creative solutions as federal and state legislation to balance tribal water rights negotiations in the face of diminishing water supply along the river.

Water rights settlements are time-consuming and expensive, said Kelly Brooks Smith, who leads a tribal water law bureau at the Office of the State Engineer.

Then comes the buildout of infrastructure projects that utilize those water rights.

“It’s not just projects, but it’s (also) how is everybody going to get along and how are we going to administer going forward,” she said.

Federal agencies and regional irrigation districts recognize that the pueblos have the oldest claims to river water rights. Each year, a certain amount of water is set aside for pueblo use.

Agencies must conserve that “prior and paramount” water, even if there is not enough for other irrigators or municipalities. But Paisano said the water rights are treated with a “use it or lose it” attitude.

Each December, water that the pueblos didn’t use is sent downstream to Elephant Butte Reservoir to help New Mexico comply with Rio Grande compact delivery obligations.

The Sandia governor said pueblos need “a seat at the table” and deserve compensation for helping New Mexico meet those deliveries.

“It is very crucial that we continue to work collectively … ensuring that the future of our water is protected and that we are treating water with the utmost respect,” Paisano said.

Home » Water » Middle Rio Grande pueblos seek to quantify water rights

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
FBI raid nets fentanyl, meth, guns and cash
ABQnews Seeker
An FBI raid of two Albuquerque ... An FBI raid of two Albuquerque area homes on Thursday led to the discovery of around 1 ...
Hobbs police officer shoots and injures teenager in stolen ...
ABQnews Seeker
Hobbs police were called to a ... Hobbs police were called to a fight involving several people at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday. An officer shot a 17-year-old who was driving a ...
A basketball decision: Josiah Allick opens up on opting ...
ABQnews Seeker
Josiah Allick, a fan favorite who ... Josiah Allick, a fan favorite who many assumed would be back for the Lobos, entered the transfer portal. In his own words, he tells ...
'They made a statement by hiring a guy like ...
ABQnews Seeker
"I think they made a statement ... "I think they made a statement when they hired a guy like me," said Jason Hooten, who came from Sam Houston State and was ...
At 41, Holly Holm continues to evolve as a ...
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque's Holm, who at age 41 ... Albuquerque's Holm, who at age 41 has signed a six-fight contract extension with the UFC, soundly defeated Yana Santos — a mere kid of ...
APD reviewed every 2022 police shooting. Here are the ...
ABQnews Seeker
New equipment and training are among ... New equipment and training are among the actions proposed by the Albuquerque Police leadership group.
Meteorologists say El Niño typically brings wetter weather to ...
ABQnews Seeker
With the departure of La Niña, ... With the departure of La Niña, New Mexicans can expect to see lower temperatures and wetter weather in wintertime, a meteorologist said.
Stansbury, Dems call on Buttigieg to increase train regulations
ABQnews Seeker
U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M., and ... U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M., and two other Democratic representatives wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, calling for stricter regulations after a hazardous train ...
FBI raid nets 100,000 fentanyl pills, 16 pounds of ...
ABQnews Seeker
One of the men arrested "was ... One of the men arrested "was found to be in possession of an incredible amount of drugs," a motion reads.