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Accord Protects Future of Water in San Juan Basin

Limits Reach of Water Transfer to Fuel Fracking

Santa Fe, NM—WildEarth Guardians reached an agreement this week to limit the reach of a water transfer that could have set a dangerous precedent fueling oil and gas development on over a million acres of land in Rio Arriba, San Juan and Sandoval Counties in northern New Mexico. The accord significantly limits where the transferred water can be used preventing the transfer of water to serve industrial purposes on an additional 400,000 acres in the San Juan Basin.

“Our rivers cannot be sacrificed to continue the fracking boom in the San Juan Basin,” said Jen Pelz, Wild Rivers Program Director at WildEarth Guardians. “The limitations placed on this water transfer will help to prevent other water users from cashing in on the use of New Mexico’s scarce water to encourage additional oil and gas development in this region.”

Last year, the State Engineer received an application for a change in the type and location of use of 28 acre-feet of water per year (enough to serve 56 homes) in the San Juan Basin. The application sought to expand the type use of the water from household, livestock and wildlife to also include industrial uses (such as oil field water and firefighting uses), and the place of use of the water from the original 5,500 acres to over one million acres of both public and private lands in three New Mexico counties.

Guardians filed a protest to the application based on the change in character of the use, the broad reach of the transfer and its potential to harm the public welfare. The parties negotiated a settlement that requires amendment of the original application both to preserve the original uses of the water (household, livestock and wildlife) and to significantly reduce where the water can be used for oil and gas development resulting in taking almost 400,000 acres off the table.

“We appreciate the applicant coming to the table and committing to limit the scope of its transfer and agreeing to maintain the existing non-industrial uses of the water for preserving wildlife,” added Pelz. “This result is a win for clean water and healthy communities in the San Juan Basin.”

WildEarth Guardians is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers and health of the American West.


 

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