Letter to the Editor: Be Wise on Water Wells

By RUSSELL T PACK
Los Alamos

I am sorry I was out of town when the meetings were held about the proposed new water wells in White Rock. If those who have taken the Not In My Backyard position toward those wells succeed, everyone in LA county will lose!

Some say, “We don’t need the water right now, so let’s just wait.” That is very short sighted. When you lose water rights, it is usually impossible to ever get them back!

I grew up in Southeastern Idaho in the middle of an 82-year fight over the water of the Bear River. For details, give me a phone call or see M. R. McCarthy, The Last Chance Canal Company (Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1987). Some pioneers came into Gem Valley in the 1890’s and filed claim to water from the river. Then, they discovered that to keep water, you must prove that you have put it to beneficial use! After years of truly heroic work, they succeeded in getting the water out of the canyon and onto the land in February 1902, just two days before their filing would have expired!   

They thought that was the end of their troubles, but it was just the beginning. Lawsuits by other groups multiplied. Then, the powerful Utah Power and Light (UP&L), with its skilled attorneys, got control of the water farther up the river and, for many years, forced the canal company to pay “rent” to use its own water! They would still be paying if they hadn’t made a brilliant discovery that brought UP&L to its knees and produced a guarantee in 1984 that the canal company would always get its water!

Los Alamos County has no such ace up its sleeve! There are many entities that have  more votes and money than we have. They are looking for ways to get our San Juan-Chama (SJC) water. If they succeed, we will never get it back!

Will we need the SJC water? The climate of all the Mountain West is well known to have been getting steadily drier for the past thousand years. That will continue. Water tables will continue to drop, more springs will dry up, more wells will run dry, more trees will die, etc. Rainfall will be unable to recharge our aquifer, and its water levels will decline. We will need the SJC water to slow this decline. We now have the chance of a lifetime to take our SJC water right above springs in White Rock Canyon that now just run into the Rio Grande. It is the same clean, high quality water that we are now drinking, not the filthy water of the Rio Grande. We should jump at the chance, get it, use it, and lock in our claims to it before the chance goes away!

Yes, the drilling of the new wells will cause some noise for a few months, but then the result will just be a small building and silent pumps. It will be well worth the sacrifice for the long-term good of the whole county. We live on Kimberly about 1,300 feet from site 2 and will happily volunteer our guest room to neighbors who live closer and have trouble with the noise.

Please be wise and support the White Rock water wells.

Los Alamos
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