A Public-Private Partnership
Every year, New Mexico municipalities spend millions of dollars purchasing water rights in controversial offsets. None of these purchases deliver any actual water to the cities. Infrastructure stills needs to be built and every year, millions are spent on energy costs necessary to pump, treat and deliver the water.
The Bureau of Reclamation has spent significant funds throughout the year to increase stream flow in the Rio Grande. For example its 2012 budget includes over $6 million for the “acquisition of supplemental non-Federal water, and pumping from the low flow conveyance channel into the Rio Grande during the irrigation season”.
In spite of all these expenditures, the river is running dry and public officials are sounding the alarm: “The pressures on the Rio Grande now and other rivers of the state in the future are great. If we didn’t have the storage in northern New Mexico reservoirs and the San Juan-Chama project, the Rio Grande would be dry right now. That’s a pretty shocking thing . . . Where are we going to get the water?” - Senator Tom Udall, Annual Water Conference, Las Cruces, August 2012
The value of the water rights at the benchmark prices New Mexico municipalities are paying exceeds the estimated construction cost of the Augustin Plains Ranch project. Operation and Maintenance costs of the project are significantly below current costs to the municipalities since no expensive energy is required to convey the project water to the Albuquerque Metropolitan Area.
Our proposed Public Private Partnership will supply 54,000 Acre Feet of water every year to the Middle Rio Grande, at no additional costs to the citizens of New Mexico.
The people living in and around the Augustin Plains are justifiably concerned that their lifestyle could be put in jeopardy by our plan. We are committed to working in partnership with them, ensuring that their local water supplies are improved in quantity, quality and reliability. In addition, we believe that the local community should receive a direct economic benefit from the project by becoming partners with us in the project. Augustin Plains Ranch encourages the local community to build on its existing organizations and to become a partner in the project, participate in the oversight of the science and management of the project and channel the economic benefits to the local residents.
Tribes, Pueblos, Farmers and Ranchers
Tribes, Pueblos, Farmers and Ranchers are under constant and increasing pressure from the growth in urban areas. Economic incentives created by the increasing scarcity of water resources is forcing the retirement of rural water rights. The Augustin Plains Ranch project will preserve New Mexico’s way of life by channeling municipal and industrial funds to the harnessing of the this sustainable vast water resource, thus lowering production costs for all agricultural sectors.
Municipalities face huge uncertainty as the market price of water rights has exploded. In spite of the great recession, prices in 2011 were six times higher than in 1996. As new residents are born to New Mexico’s young families, how will they secure their water rights? The Augustin Plains Ranch project would guarantee a fixed price for water rights to municipalities for decades to come. In addition, because the project only requires renewable energy most of it provided by the very water we harvest, operation costs will be significantly lower than the high energy costs incurred by municipalities today.
New Mexico Government Entities
The Office of the State Engineer (OSE) of New Mexico is responsible for the adjudication of the water rights needed for the project to take place. The OSE has ruled that water rights can only be adjudicated if users for the water are specifically identified. We believe this interpretation of the statute is incorrect. More importantly, we believe that the beneficial user of the water should be the People of the State of New Mexico and that the actual distribution of water from the project should vary, based on state of the art conjunctive management under the guidance and leadership of the Interstate Stream Commission and the Office of the State Engineer.
The business community’s development in New Mexico has been hindered by the risks and uncertainties surrounding the availability of water and its cost. The economy of New Mexico’s dependence on Federal Government programs is in part the result of the reluctance of many industries and businesses to come or expand in the State as a result of this reality. By providing a safe and reliable new source of water supply, the Augustin Plains Ranch project will promote investment and jobs in New Mexico.
Universities and Environmental Groups
Augustin Plains Ranch proposes a radically new approach to the management of groundwater and surface water resources, based on the unique circumstances of its location. Universities and Environmental Groups should work together with the project team to scope the investigations required to ensure the soundness of the proposal and monitor the project implementation and impacts.
The Bureau of Reclamation and other Federal Agencies are currently spending tens of millions of dollars purchasing water, pumping water into the Rio Grande, augmenting current flows in the Rio Grande through other activities, managing endangered species, and participating in various lawsuits. These funds could be put to productive use and develop the currently untapped, renewable water resources in the state, such as the one proposed by Augustin Plains Ranch.