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9:05am — Northwest N.M. Cities Sue State for Water Rights

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield seek water from Animas-La Plata Project.


The cities of Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield are seeking water rights through a lawsuit filed by the San Juan Water Commission against the Office of the State Engineer, The Daily Times reported.

The cities are suing the state engineer for permission to use 20,600 acre-feet of water from the Animas-La Plata Project, saying Congress approved that amount when it authorized the project in 1968, The Daily Times said.

However, Congress authorized a smaller Animas-La Plata Project as part of the Colorado Ute Settlement Act Amendments of 2000, the paper reported.

The city of Farmington contends that it is entitled to more than 6,000 acre-feet from the Animas-La Plata Project, according to City Attorney Jay Burnham, who is an alternate member of the San Juan Water Commission.


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“We are allowed by statute to plan 40 years in advance,” Burnham said. “We do believe we are going to need additional water rights in the next 40 years because of growth.”

The city believes the remaining water should be distributed to Aztec, Bloomfield, the San Juan Water Commission and the San Juan County Rural Water Users Association, a nonprofit group that provides training and technical assistance to small water and waste-water systems, Burnham said.

The Animas-La Plata Project is supposed to provide water from the Animas River that is stored in Lake Nighthorse near Durango, Colo., to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Southern Ute Indian Tribe and other Four Corners communities, including the Navajo Nation and San Juan Water Commission, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The Office of the State Engineer did not respond to The Daily Times’ request for comment.