Rio San Jose New Mexico

1. Basin Overview 

The size of the Rio Grande Basin is 335,500 square miles and is often referred to as about 336,000 square miles including what's in CO, NM, TX, and the five states in Mexico. The Rio Grande Basin portion in the US is 182,200 square miles. The River flows 1,896 miles from its headwaters in the San Juan Mountains through New Mexico 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 intersects with 11 Navajo chapters over 3 subbasins: Rio San Jose, Rio Puerco, and Rio Salado. 

2. Hydrology

75% of the Upper Rio Grande streamflow comes from snowpack in Colorado and New Mexico. Water is distributed to users by a series of dams and diversions 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 Zuni Mountains. It flows eastward through 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 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 at the Rio Puerco just before it joins the Rio Grande, its average streamflow is 173 cfs. This end of the Puerco is ephemeral and often reports stream flows of 0 cfs. The Rio Puerco Basin includes land within the chapters of Tohajilee and Alamo.

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.


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 Navajo and Puebloan water rights. The Pueblos, the State of New Mexico, the United States, and major water users in the Basin are actively 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 added to 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. Also in 2022, Acoma and Laguna Pueblos, the State of New Mexico, and non-Indian water users executed a settlement which initiated water rights to be quantified for the two Pueblos and agreed on details of a potential 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, and given 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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