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Who is the Deep Well Protest Group?
Deep Well Protest is an all-volunteer grassroots group from the East Mountains that believes community access to clean water should not be bought or sold by for-profit corporations. We operate on a shoestring budget made up almost entirely of donations from community members.

Comprised mainly of homeowners in Cedar Crest, Sandia Park, San Pedro Creek, and the Sandia Knolls, the Deep Well Protest Group operates with back-office help and fiscal sponsorship from the North 14 Forum, a community nonprofit. Because of its 501(c)(3) status, all donations are tax deductible.

What are we fighting?
The Deep Well Protest Group formed to protect our community's right to clean, accessible water. We are challenging Aquifer Science, a partnership of developers and water speculators, who are trying to buy community water rights to promote large-scale housing and industrial developments. If the Aquifer Science gets what they are demanding, some of our communities’ wells are likely to decline. And their pockets are deep—they have spent $7.1 million on this case so far.

Who is Aquifer Science?

  1. They are a partnership between Vidler Water Company (95%) and Campbell Corporation (5%). Campbell Corporation is planning to build a “resort lifestyle community” named Campbell Ranch. Their Master Plan includes resorts, retail space, two golf courses, and more than 4,000 homes, creating a development larger than the cities of Socorro or Raton. They are using the proposed development as justification for the water rights. However, though they have had water rights and access to water from the Estancia Basin for a long time, they have not used the already available water to proceed with development.
  2. Vidler is a for-profit water speculator. Their business model operates by applying for or purchasing water rights in communities that don’t have the financial resources to fight long, expensive court cases. They sell those water rights to developers, or pump the water via pipelines to other states or communities willing to pay large sums of money.

How much water is Aquifer Science requesting?
They are now asking for 350 acre-feet of water per year. That’s equal to 114,047,850 gallons per year, approximately the amount used for many small towns in New Mexico such as Questa, Las Vegas, Red River, Bosque Farms, and Estancia.

How much is an acre-foot of water?
One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, or enough water to cover an acre of land (about the size of a football field), one foot deep. An average household uses between one-half and one acre-foot of water per year for indoor and outdoor use.

Why does Aquifer Science claim to need so much water?
The Campbell Ranch plans call for as many as six houses per acre (much like the high-density developments in Rio Rancho). They propose “village centers, equestrian facilities, resorts, retail and office space and recreational facilities” (see the Master Plan here). To sustain this enormous development, Aquifer Science is applying to draw 350 acre-feet of water per year from the surrounding area.

What’s at stake? How will this case affect the East Mountain community?

  1. Our aquifer is already over-tapped. Water levels have dropped an average of 1.8 feet each year for the past seven years. 
  2. The State Engineer denied water for the Vista Grande Community Center, which requested 30 acre-feet of water (Aquifer Science is requesting 350 acre-feet).  The Community Center is now importing water at taxpayer expense. If there wasn’t enough water for a community center, there isn’t enough water for a new 4,000-home development.
  3. There is already serious doubt our East Mountain aquifer can support the existing community over the long-term, let alone an additional development that is the equivalent of adding an entire new city. 
  4. Defending our water against big-budget corporations is expensive. We don’t know the full cost of this case yet, but after hiring lawyers, and expert testimony from hydrologists, geologists, and climatologists, it’s likely to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars—a huge economic drain on the area. This money could have gone to infrastructure, education, or restoration.

What are the wider implications of the case? How will this case affect water rights across the state? Across the U.S.?  

  1. This case will determine whether out-of-state investors and water speculators consider New Mexico a good place to buy water rights and sell them for profit.
  2. By denying the Aquifer Science application, New Mexico will earn the reputation as an inhospitable business environment for other for-profit water speculators who prey on our small communities.
  3. Making New Mexico a place that discourages rather than encourages for-profit water rights speculation will minimize the financial drain on the communities and will protect water resources for communities across the state.
  4. We hope to serve as a role model for how other small communities across the U.S. can effectively fight large corporations and win.

What’s happened so far in the trial?
The Office of the State Engineer already denied Aquifer Science’s first application for deep well drilling and new water rights. Thanks to our lawyers and the generous donations from community members, Deep Well Protest fought and won the first round in 2014. Aquifer Science then appealed the decision to the District Court. The District Court allowed Aquifer Science to amend their application, which required another round of expensive analysis by our legal team and experts. The appeal trial begins March 5, 2018.

What’s happening next in the trial?  
The trial will be held March 5—16, 2018. After the 10 day trial, the judge will issue an opinion. See Trial Updates here.

How can I help?

    • Please donate! Your donations go directly toward legal expenses involved in hiring attorneys and experts to challenge the Aquifer Science water application.
    • Volunteer: Help with fundraising activities or outreach efforts. Email us with your contact information: DeepWellProtest@gmail.com
    • Spread the word: Join the mailing list for updates, meetings, and calls to action. Talk to your friends and neighbors to get them involved too. By joining together we have more strength. Email DeepWellProtest@gmail.com to sign up.