Letter to the Editor: Greater Concern With Well Project

Los Alamos

Most of the discussion of the county’s proposed well project has focused on wellhead impacts. However, I believe there is a greater concern: potential impact to the springs in White Rock Canyon.

This project is designed to extract ground water before it becomes surface water flowing into the Rio Grande. Ground water becomes surface water by emerging through springs. Therefore, by definition, some springs somewhere must be affected; the only question is which ones and how much. The county’s explanation that “experts with knowledge of the White Rock Canyon hydro-geologic region have expressed opinions to DPU that the various springs in White Rock canyon would not be adversely impacted” is apparently at odds with this fact.

Pajarito Spring along the Red Dot Trail is the most well-known of the White Rock Canyon springs, but there are lots more more scattered through the canyon. These springs are truly remarkable oases in a unique canyon; they are strategic resources for Los Alamos County and should be protected.

Questions that we as a community need answered with reasonable confidence before proceeding include: What springs exist in White Rock Canyon, and where? Which springs will be affected by the project, and how much? How will the effects on springs be monitored once pumping begins? If it turns out they are affected, once we’ve already spent millions of dollars on the project, what will be done? What happens in the long term, if precipitation decreases in the Jemez to the extent that insufficient groundwater is available for both the wells and the springs?

My point is that the county needs to do the background work to understand and communicate the costs of its projects. Particularly in this case, those costs may be well beyond the dollars and cents of construction and operation.

(Disclosure: I am a member of the Los Alamos County Environmental Sustainability Board, but I speak for myself in this letter.)