Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R - Eddy, is the other co-sponsor of the bill.
Leavell said the bill reached the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee where it was determined it would need to be put into House Bill 2, which addresses the state's general budget.
Senate Bill 462 - The Lower Pecos River Drought Mitigation - asks the state to take $2.5 million from the state's general fund and give it to the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission to help agriculture in the Lower Pecos River Basin.
Leavell and Brown said they co-sponsored the bill to help mitigate the effects of the drought in the Lower Pecos River Basin and the Carlsbad Irrigation District (CID), which has the most senior water rights on the river but has the least water.
"The only thing I am trying to do is to help constituents and citizens in the Pecos Valley so we can all live peacefully through this drought without the senior water right holders making a call on the junior right holders," Leavell said.
CID officials have told legislators that if the bill does not pass, the CID will be forced
to implement a priority water call on the junior water right holders in the Lower Pecos River Basin.
Should the CID make the water priority call, junior right water holders would not be able to pump from their artisan wells until the CID's needs are met. In an email letter to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, CID Board President Charlie Jurva, said a priority water call would be far more costly than $2.5 million requested in SB462.
Jurva sent the letter in response to an email sent to the committee by Joe and Janet Cox, owners of the Cox Land and Cattle Company, and New Mexico HomeRanch Realty.
The Coxes state in their letter their water wells are being depleted by the state's augmentation wells that are being pumped to provide water to the CID. They say that while they initially supported SB 462, it now no longer the case.
"We feel the language is so vague in this bill that it will not do the job it was intended to," the Coxes said.
They say they believe there is no directive in the bill for how the money is to be used. In addition, they say the bill does not address shutting down the state's augmentation wells, which they believe is drawing down the private wells in the area of Lakewood and Seven Rivers located north of Carlsbad.
"The $96,000 that is paid monthly to keep these wells running is a total waste of taxpayer money and water," they said. "The water does not get to the CID farmers who need it greatly and it is detrimentally affecting the area ranchers who live near and beyond the augmentation well field.
"The money could be spent better elsewhere, especially the $96,000. The amount of money spent to get these farmers water should have been spent on a pipeline from Roswell, where the water rights were bought. It would not have been a total waste of money."
In his letter sent to the committee on behalf of the CID, Jurva said the CID has suffered through decades of under-delivery of surface water to its 600-plus members because of the over-appropriation of water.
He notes that in an attempt to rectify that, the CID entered into discussion with the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District (Artesia and Roswell), the State Engineer's Office, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and the federal Bureau or Reclamation. He said after months of give and take, the settlement agreement addressed the CID's concern and the state's water obligation to Texas under the 1948 Pecos River Compact and a 1988 federal Supreme Court decree.
The decree says that New Mexico cannot default in its water obligation to Texas. If the state defaults, the federal government will step in and shut down the Pecos River until the water obligation to Texas is met. Jurva said the settlement agreement includes legally designating the size of the CID, retiring 4,500 acres of water rights within the CID and 6,000 acres within the PVACD, and establishing a water wellfield near Brantley Dam to supplement the CID's annual water allotments in dry years, thereby affording CID farmers a more water consistent water supply.
"The most glaring mistake in the Coxes' email was that the augmentation pumping does not aid the Carlsbad farmers," Jurva said. "For each of 2011 and 2012, we received an additional half-acre foot per acre of water for the entire district from this pumping. This year, it appears that our total allotment may be only .5 acre-feet per acre with almost all of that coming from the wells."
Jurva said CID farmers with supplemental wells are also seeing a draw-down in their wells.
Addressing the need for water for livestock on ranches, Jurva said he believes water could be trucked into stock tanks to satisfy the rancher's herds. "If the true intent of the push to cease pumping in our augmentation wells is merely to enable the protesters to sell water to the oil and gas industry, we strongly object," Jurva said.
Jurva said Interstate Stream Commission Director Estevan Lopez has confirmed that the CID has a right to make a priority water call.
He said PVACD has estimated that a priority by the CID could cost the Pecos River Basin billions of dollars in the first year.
PVACD Superintendent Aron Balock said his agency supports SB462 and is working with the CID to negotiate a solution to avoid a water call.
He said although producers in the northern part of the valley get their agriculture water from artisan wells, some are also struggling with low water tables.