Sunday, December 10, 2023

Rio San Jose New Mexico

1. Basin Overview
The Rio Grande Basin includes all the areas that are drained by the Rio Grande (Big River). It covers approximately 182,200 square miles in the United States and Mexico. The river flows 1,896 miles from its headwaters in the San Juan mountains through New Mexico and to Texas along the United States-Mexico International Border.
The Rio Grande serves as the primary source of water for more than 13 million agricultural, municipal, and industrial water users in the region. The Basin includes three major subbasins which intersect with boundaries of Navajo Nation Chapters: Rio San Jose, Rio Puerco, and Rio Salado. 11 Navajo Chapters are part of the Rio Grande Basin.

2. Hydrology
The Rio Grande Basin hosts many rivers flowing east of the Continental Divide including the Rio San Jose, Rio Puerco, Rio Salado, and numerous others. Approximately 75% of the Upper Rio Grande streamflow comes from snowpack in the headwaters and high-elevation areas of Colorado and New Mexico. Streamflow in the upper region of the Basin is managed through a series of dams and diversions used to distribute water to users through outlets such as the San Juan-Chama Project. By the time the water reaches the southernmost part of the Basin, the flow has been reduced by 95%. Certain sections of the river are often intermittently dry.
Rio San Jose Subbasin: The Rio San Jose is primarily supplied by runoff from the eastern slopes of the Zuni Mountains. It flows eastward through Eastern-central New Mexico, generally following the path of I-40 before joining Rio Puerco near Black Mesa. According to USGS stream gauge data for Rio San Jose at Acoma Pueblo, NM, the mean streamflow of the past 76 years is 8.6 cubic feet per second (cfs). The highest recorded flow was 128 cubic feet per second in 1957. The Basin includes land within the boundaries of the Baca/Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Thoreau, Smith Lake, and Tohajilee Chapters.
Rio Puerco Subbasin: The Rio Puerco’s headwaters are in the badland hills of northwestern New Mexico. From there, the River flows south through the Arroyo San Jose and several other canyons before joining the Rio Grande in Bernardo, NM. According to USGS stream gauge data for the Rio Puerco just before it joins the Rio Grande, the average streamflow of the river is 173 cfs over the last 83 years. This end of the river is ephemeral and often reports streamflows of 0 cfs. The Basin includes land within the boundaries of the Tohajilee and Alamo Chapters.
Rio Salado Subbasin: The Rio Salado originates in the Cow Springs Canyon and flows eastward to where it crosses the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge and joins the Rio Grande just east on I-25. Rio Salado is ephemeral and often carries no surface water aside from during precipitation events. The Rio Salado Subbasin contains land within the Alamo Chapter boundary.

3. History Regarding Water Rights
Rio San Jose Adjudication. (State of New Mexico, ex rel. Eluid L. Martinez, State Engineer v. Kerr-McGee, et al., Nos. CB-83-190-CV, Thirteenth District, Cibola County, New Mexico)
This general stream adjudication was initiated in 1983, and a previously filed federal action to determine the rights of the Pueblos of Laguna and Acoma was dismissed. The Navajo statement of claims was filed in 1987. Negotiations regarding potential settlement of the Pueblos’ water rights claims have been ongoing since 1993, when the United States established teams to negotiate comprehensive settlements of all the Navajo Nation and Pueblos’ water rights in their respective basins. The Pueblos, the State of New Mexico, the United States, and major water users in the Basin are engaged in settlement negotiations. Navajo Nation monitors the settlement negotiations concerning the Pueblo claims to determine if a settlement of the Navajo Nation’s claims could be achieved as part of a Pueblo settlement.


4. Current Status: Litigation, Settlements, Etc.
In 2022, Jemez and Zia Pueblos, the State of New Mexico, and non-Indian water users executed a settlement agreement quantifying the rights of the two Pueblos and reaching agreement on other key issues. Also in 2022, Acoma and Laguna Pueblos, the State of New Mexico, and non-Indian water users executed a settlement setting out the water rights to be quantified for the two Pueblos and reaching agreement on other key issues, including the requirements and parameters of a possible future project to import water to Pueblo lands. The United States is not a signatory to either of the 2022 settlement agreements, nor is the Navajo Nation. The Nation is working with the parties to achieve settlement on its claims in the Rio San Jose Basin.
On March 1, 2023, both settlements were introduced to the Senate, with a favorable report without amendment on March 29, 2023. The two settlements are pending Senate approval before being sent to the House for Approval. If approved, the settlements will have to be signed by the President in order to become law. The United States is conducting the hydrographic survey of the Navajo Nation lands.

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