Public Invited to Join DPU Board for San Juan Chama Water Well Tour

DPU News:

The Department of Public Utilities is conducting a tour of proposed well sites for the San Juan-Chama Water Supply Project followed by public discussion, Thursday, May 23, at White Rock Town Hall, 133 Longview. 

Visit proposed well sites and existing well sites to understand well characteristics and logistics associated with the proposed San Juan Chama test wells.

The DPU Board will convene at 5 p.m. White Rock Town Hall for the tour (public invited) and reconvene at 7:30 p.m. at White Rock Town Hall for public discussion. 

For more information, contact DPU Public Relations at or call 505-662-8333.

The County’s Open Forum page has more project information and offers the public a way to provide comments.

Below is project information from the County’s website:

This past fiscal year, the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities contracted with CDM Smith to investigate various alternatives to develop the County’s San Juan-Chama water rights (1,200 acre-feet) under contract with the Bureau of Reclamation to protect its water right and expand the County’s water supply.

CDM Smith examined five alternatives to divert and utilize the non-native water which makes its way to Los Alamos via the Rio Grande. A Preliminary Engineering Report was prepared and then presented to the Board of Public Utilities and County Council in September and October of 2012. CDM recommends Alternative five and DPU received approval from its Board of Public Utilities to explore the viability of the most cost-effective alternative – Alternative 5.

Alternative Five

Drill one to three groundwater wells in the White Rock area along White Rock Canyon to intercept groundwater before it discharges to the Rio Grande. Los Alamos’ San Juan-Chama water, stored in Abiquiu Lake, would be released into the Rio Grande to offset the withdrawal. Water pumped from the wells will be tied into the County water distribution system.

What is the San Juan-Chama Water Project?

Approved by congress and signed by President Kennedy in 1962, the San Juan-Chama Project now “consists of a system of diversion structures and tunnels for transmountain movement of water from the San Juan River Basin to the Rio Grande Basin. Authorized as a participating project of the Colorado River Storage Project, the San Juan-Chama Project provides a planned annual diversion of about 110,000 acre-feet of water from the upper tributaries of the San Juan River.  Primary purposes of the San Juan-Chama Project are to furnish a water supply to the middle Rio Grande Valley for municipal, domestic, and industrial uses.  The project is also authorized to provide supplemental irrigation water and incidental recreation and fish and wildlife benefits,” according to the Bureau of Reclamation website.

Los Alamos County’s contract with the Bureau of Reclamation is for the annual delivery of 1,200 acre-feet of San Juan-Chama project water.  To date, Los Alamos has not constructed the facilities to access this water and therefore has never used it.  Development of this project ensures that the County preserves its San Juan-Chama water rights, as well as meeting the needs of the community for: developing a more reliable and sustainable water supply; providing for increased flexibility in water supply source location and resting of the existing groundwater aquifer water source; providing for possible growth both within the County and at LANL.

Scope of work

At this point, DPU is testing the viability of Alternative 5.  It will begin by drilling an exploratory well at one of the three sites identified – Well Site 3 – to verify the water yield.  If Well Site 3 yields the full 1,200 acre feet, it will not be necessary for DPU to drill the other two wells.  DPU will seek permission of the Office of the State Engineer to develop Well Site 3 into a full production well.

If Well Site 3 does not yield 1,200 acre feet, DPU will drill another exploratory well at Well Site 2, and again verify the water yield.  If the full 1,200 acre feet have not yet been produced, the last exploratory well at Well Site 1 will be drilled. After the 1,200 acre feet is available through testing then the final definitive costs and schedule estimates will be developed.

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