Episode 1115 | Our Land: Wells Going Dry in the East Mountains

Episode 1115 | Our Land: Wells Going Dry in the East Mountains


>>IF YOU LIVE IN A CITY, YOU EXPECT THAT WATER WILL BE THERE BEEN WHEN YOU TURN ON THE TAP. BUT FOR PEOPLE THAT LIVE IN RURAL PARTS OF THE STATE, THEY DEAL WITH A UNIQUE SET OF ISSUES RELATED TO HOW THEY GET WATER IN THEIR HOMES. ON THE EAST SIDE OF THE SANDIA MOUNTAINS MANY FAMILES ARE FINDING WELLS ARE PRODUCING LESS WATER OR GOING DRY. IN THIS MONTH’S EPISODE OF OUR LAND, LAURA PASKUS LOOKS AT WHAT THESE PROBLEMS MEAN FOR INDIVIDUALS AND THE REST OF THE STATE.>>EAST MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES ARE ONLY A 30 MINUTE DRIVE FROM ALBUQUERQUE BUT THEY REPRESENT A DIFFERENT WAY OF LIFE. THAT IS WHAT ATTRACTED GARRETT PETRE TO THE AREA 10 YEARS AGO.>>MY WIFE AND I FELL IN LOVE WITH NEW MEXICO AFTER VISITING AND DECIDED WE WANTED TO LIVE HERE. WHEN WE FIRST MOVED INTO THE AREA, BEING AS BOTH FROM THE SOUTHWEST, WE WERE CONCERNED ABOUT WATER. WE DID ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS. BOUGHT THE PLACE WITH THE INTENTION OF HAVING A WELL. IT’S SOMEWHAT OFF THE GRID, AND WE KEPT HEARING THINGS LIKE THE WELLS REALLY VARY, YOU CAN GET A BAD ONE.>>AFTER PURCHASING THEIR HOME, THEY REPAIRED A STORAGE TANK ON THE SHARED WELL, BUT SOON AFTER THAT IT WENT DRY. THE WELL WENT DOWN 425 FEET. PEOPLE COMPARE THE AREA’S GEOLOGY TO SWISS CHEESE. WELLS VARY BUT 425 FEET IS NORMAL. AFTER THE WELL DRIED, FOR A WHILE THEY PAID TO HAVE WATER DELIVERED.>>WHEN WE FIRST STARTED HAVING WATER DELIVERED HERE, AT THAT POINT IT WAS $85 FOR DELIVERY FOR 1500 GALLONS AND THAT WOULD LAST PERHAPS TWO WEEKS.>>HAVING WATER DELIVERED IS EXPENSIVE BUT CONNECTING TO THE LOCAL WATER UTILITY ALSO ADDS UP.>>THE INITIAL COST FOR A MEMBERSHIP ON THE COOPERATIVE WAS ABOUT $5,000 RANGE. FROM THEIR METER ON INTO OUR HOME IS 400 FEET, SO WE HAD TO FOOT THE BILL TO GET THAT PUT IN AND THAT WAS ANOTHER 4,000.>>MORE FAMILIES ARE FACING THESE CHOICES IN THE EAST MOUNTAINS. WHEN A WELL GOES DRY, YOU CAN PAY TO HAVE IT DUG DEEPER, PAY TO HAVE WATER DELIVERED OR PAY TO HOOK UP TO THE LOCAL WATER DISTRICT, ENTRINOSA WATER AND WASTEWATER ASSOCIATION. THAT IS WHAT PETRI AND HIS WIFE FINALLY DID AND THEY ARE STILL RECOVERING FINANCIALLY FROM HAVING TO PAY FOR THE INFRASTRUCTURE FROM WHERE THE WATER METER ENDED TO THEIR HOUSE. THE AQUIFER ISN’T THE ONLY SOURCE OF WATER. 60 HOMES IN THE EAST MOUNTAINS USE SPRING WATER.>>WE ARE KIND OF ON THE LOWER HALF OF THE SANDIA MOUNTAINS AND CIENEGA SPRING IS RIGHT NEXT TO US. I THINK OF IT AS A NECKLACE OF SPRINGS AROUND THE SANDIA. THEY TEND TO SIT AT SIMILAR ELEVATIONS DUE TO THE GEOLOGY AND CIENEGA IS ONE OF MANY. THIS SPRING HAS BEEN DEVELOPED TO SUPPLY THE LOCAL COMMUNITY WITH WATER FOR THEIR HOMES.>>BASICALLY THE SANDIAS ARE A BIG PILE OF LIMESTONE AND SNOW THAT FALLS HIGHER IN THE SANDIAS PERCOLATES DOWN THROUGH THE ROCK AND FORMS A SERIES OF AQUIFERS AND SO THAT WATER POPS OUT AT THIS SPRING BUT IT IS THE SAME WATER THAT GOES ON DOWN THE MOUNTAINS TO FEED THE LOWER AQUIFER AS WELL.>>WE FIRST BECAME INTERESTED IN WATER RIGHTS AND WATER LAW WHILE STUDYING AT UNM. SHE OWNS A HOME IN THE AREA AND IS A MEMBER OF THE SPRING WATER COOPERATIVE. SHE SAYS IT IS A STATE-WIDE ISSUE.>>I SEE MOUNTING CONCERN ABOUT WATER BECAUSE SO MANY PEOPLE ARE BEING AFFECTED, SO MANY PEOPLE ARE SEEING THEIR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS HAVING TO DIG NEW WELLS AND GETTING THESE HUGE PRICE TAGS ALL OF A SUDDEN. WHEN I WAS SHOPPING FOR A HOUSE UP HERE 15 YEARS AGO, I LOOKED AT A NEIGHBORHOOD IN PLACITAS THAT HAD GORGEOUS HOUSES BUT THE WELLS HAD ALL GONE DRY AND SO THE PROPERTY VALUES HAD PLUMMETED. THERE WAS A WHOLE SUBDIVISION BASICALLY THAT YOU HAD A GORGEOUS HOUSE BUT YOU HAD A HUGE PRICE TAG AND A QUESTIONABLE FUTURE FOR WATER TO SUPPLY THAT HOME.>>IN ORDER TO MEASURE AND PREDICT WATER SUPPLIES, INCLUDING HOW MUCH LONGER A WELL MIGHT PRODUCE, PHILLIP OVERSEES A VOLUNTARY WELL MONITORING PROGRAM FOR BERNALILLO COUNTY. THE COUNTY HAS DRILLED WELLS TO OBSERVE ACTIVITIES AT DIFFERENT DEPTHS.>>THE GEOLOGY IS SO COMPLEX AND YOU CAN’T GENERALIZE. AND, OFTENTIMES, YOU REALLY DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ENCOUNTER UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY DRILL AND YOUR DRILLER WILL TELL YOU, OH, WE HIT WATER AT THIS DEPTH AND THAT IS WHAT YOU GO BY. BUT HERE, YOU KNOW, RIGHT HERE, WHERE WE ARE STANDING RIGHT NOW, WE ARE TALKING 400 FEET TO THE SHALLOWEST AQUIFER AND A LOT OF WELLS ARE 10, 20, 30, 40 YEARS OLD. THAT IS A LOT OF DRAWDOWN IN EACH INDIVIDUAL WELL AND WHEN YOU DRILL A WELL, YOU DRILL IT UNTIL YOU GET WATER AND THAT IS GOOD ENOUGH. THAT WAS 20, 30 YEARS AGO. NOW THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.>>AS CLIMATE CONTINUES WARMING, THE PROBLEM ISN’T GOING TO GO AWAY AND EXPERTS SAY IT IS UNDERSTANDING WHAT IS HAPPENING AND HOW WIDESPREAD THE PROBLEM IS.>>IF NOTHING ELSE, IT IS A LESSON ABOUT GOOD RESOURCE MANAGEMENT. IF NOTHING ELSE. AND, UNFORTUNATELY, IN THE BASIN, WE HAVE GOT A LIMITED RESOURCE AND A HIGH DEMAND AND IF WE DON’T MANAGE IT EFFECTIVELY, THEN WE FACE THE REALITY OF NOT HAVING AN AQUIFER.>>THIS ISN’T JUST AN ISSUE IN THE EAST MOUNTAINS. WELLS ARE GOING DRY ACROSS THE SANDIA BASIN FROM PLACITAS TO TIJERAS. A RECENT STUDY BY SCIENTISTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA BARBARA AND STANFORD LOOKED AT MORE THAN TWO MILLION WATER WELLS ACROSS 17 WESTERN STATES. THESE WERE DRILLED FROM THE 1950’S UNTIL RECENTLY. AND THEY FOUND THAT 1 IN 30 WELLS WERE DRY IN 2013 THROUGH 2015. FOR NEW MEXICO INFOCUS AND OUR LAND, I AM LAURA PASKUS.

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