Water commission debates allocation

Hannah Grover
McKenna Villers, 8, walks along the Animas River in Farmington on Dec. 19. The San Juan Water Commission is coming up with a plan for allocation of local water resources.

FARMINGTON – San Juan Water Commission members are preparing proposed plans for water allocation, which will be submitted by March 1 for the commissioners to review.

The commission is working on a water plan that includes an allocation policy. Once the board members have reviewed the submitted proposals, they will arrange a time to have another workshop to help create a plan.

While the commission prepared a draft allocation policy in November, that plan has since been shelved. The commission had a special work session Wednesday morning to discuss allocation issues.

The allocation policy has divided municipalities and rural water users based on who should hold the title for the water. Currently, the commission holds the title for all water rights, and the different entities have joint permits with the commission for use of that water. The commission holds the permits for the reserve water.

The cities want more control over the water resources. Aztec and Farmington have expressed interest in having titles for some of the water rights in their names rather than leaving them in the commission's name.

"We want to have our own choices, make our own choices," said David Sypher, the city of Farmington public works director.

The city of Bloomfield did not take a stand on the issue. City Manager Eric Strahl said he would like to see in writing how the different options would benefit Bloomfield.

Keith Lee, the alternate commissioner for the San Juan Rural Water Users Association,  said he is in favor of leaving the titles in the commission's name.

"I believe that that water is in safe hands as long as we as a water commission can sit at the table and talk," he said.

In addition to water rights, the amount of water allocated to each entity is also something that will be laid out in the plan. Rural water users have maintained that the agreement that determines the percentage of water each entity receives unfairly favors the cities.

"The rub against us has always been that we have excess water," said Cy Cooper, a commissioner representing Farmington.

Aztec City Manager Josh Ray said the percentages of allocation will need to be addressed, and the water should be allocated based on use and not on population.

"Some type of fair allocation is great," he said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.