WATER ISSUES/LA CIENEGA WATERSHED CONDITIONS
Water is what has made our community what it is. The water that feeds our creeks, ponds and streams, supplies our wells and sustains our historic, centuries-old, acequia culture comes from area springs. The problem is the springs in La Cienega, La Cieneguilla, El Canon and La Bajada have diminished over the last forty years and if this decline continues the remaining springs may dry up within the next 20-30 years. The lesson here is that the aquifer is not an unlimited source of water and there is clear evidence that it is being overused. This is why this year the LCVA is supporting legislative funding to begin implementation of the La Cienega Watershed Conditions.
Confirming our concerns, the LCVA recently received some preliminary information from a comprehensive water study conducted by a group of governmental agencies, including the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. The report documents a significant and sustained decline in the aquifer. The LCVA feels is important for residents to understand the causes of depletion, what the La Cienega Watershed Conditions mean, and most importantly, understand that we all have to work together to address the problem. To understand the whole picture, residents need to appreciate our area’s geology and its relationship to the aquifer. La Cienega, La Cieneguilla, El Canon and La Bajada are at the southern edge of the aquifer and, as the aquifer has been depleted, our area has been the first to feel its effects. Over the last forty years springs have dried up or been reduced to a trickle. The lifeblood of our historic agricultural traditions, some acequias that were dependent on those spring flows have ceased to exist. If this trend is allowed to continue the water that makes our area such a special place and irrigates farms established in the 1600s will disappear.
The factors that have affected our area water sources include the sustained drought, large production wells (City, County and State Pen) and the uncontrolled proliferation of residential wells. The Buckman Direct Diversion (BDD), the combined City/County effort to use water from the Rio Grande River, when functioning, is intended to lessen the demand on the groundwater in the Santa Fe Basin. Unfortunately so far the BDD has not proved to be a dependable source of water. It has had problems with sediment and there have been expressed operational concerns. Closer to home, the proliferation of wells has had a direct impact on our aquifer. For example, in Upper La Cienega the County has legally permitted the development of a large 400-500 home subdivision through the use of family lot splits. If a developer proposed a similar large scale development they would have been required to address traffic and road issues and water and waste water concerns. The fact that there are over four hundred new wells with no County controls over the amount of water use has had a direct impact. This is why in the 1990’s a forward-looking County Commission, supported strongly by residents and former County Commissioner Linda Grill, established the La Cienega Watershed Conditions. The La Cienega Watershed conditions apply to around 400 homes in Upper La Cienega and on the east side of I-25. The owners of these homes have agreed that when County water is available they will connect to the County water system. Given the continued seriousness of our water concerns, the LCVA will be working with our State legislators for funding for the necessary infrastructure to implement the La Cienega Watershed Conditions. This will be a several year project and the LCVA appreciates the cost to residents for hooking up to the County water system. As the project proceeds the LCVA will be working to minimize the financial impact to residents. This may include a “special assessment district” which would allow residents to pay the cost over time. In the meantime, please do your part in conserving water and remind yourself that when you are over watering or overplanting that water you are using is slowly depleting our aquifer.
The LCVA is also involved in two other area water concerns. The LCVA and the Santa Fe Watershed Association are co-chairing the Santa Fe River Traditional Communities Collaborative, a group comprised of ranchers, farmers, environmental groups, City and County representatives, BLM and the Forest Service. The group is responsible for planning a river restoration that will go from La Cieneguilla to La Bajada but is also focusing on how to achieve a sufficient flow of water in the Santa Fe River to sustain a healthy river and meet the needs of downstream farmers and ranchers. In addition Representative Jim Hall arranged for community representatives to meet with the State Engineer Scott Verhines and members of the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) to present a series of questions created by the LCVA Water Committee. Please e-mail [email protected] if you would like further info.
LA CIENEGA PARK & COMMUNITY CENTER
The LCVA is excited to announce that with the support and direct involvement of well-respected community leaders, our community has the opportunity to expand the use of the current community center and begin planning for a park and future community center.
Commissioner Robert Anaya and County staff are supportive of expanding the use of the existing community center to add a library/computer lab to support youth and other community programs. County staff is also exploring the possibility of installing playground equipment if an appropriate location can be found on the County property.
At the same time, the LCVA and community leaders are actively working to establish our first park which is also the proposed site for a future community/senior centers. The proposed location is on 45 acres on State Land Office land that sits off the road to La Cieneguilla between the water tank and El Rancho de Las Golondrinas. Currently, the County has a grazing lease on the property and the County and our state legislators are working with the State Land Office to secure the land for permanent community use.
On October 9, the LCVA Board met with County staff for a site visit and to discuss plans for property. Preliminary plans include a building to house the community/senior center, swimming pool, playing field, basketball courts and playground, walking paths, picnic areas and shelters among other amenities. The development of the property would be done in phases with the first phase including funding to pay for a master plan estimated to cost in the range of $150,000. In locating the facilities, the County and community will be careful to consider neighbors’ views and any impact on our night sky. Architectural design will complement that of El Ranchos de Las Golondrinas.
Both the expanded use of the community center and the proposed location for a future park/community/senior center will be discussed at a community meeting on Wednesday, November 7 at 6 p.m. at the La Cienega Community Center. The improvements for the existing community center will be discussed from 6-7 p.m. with the review of proposed park and future community site starting at 7:00 p.m. Recommendations from this meeting will be given to our County and State Representatives and will become a formal legislative request for funding. We need your comments and feedback on the proposed plans so please join us.