The majority of residents in the Tano Road area rely on private wells for household water. Our wells draw from the same underground water sources used by the city and county public water systems. We will post current information regarding important water rights and private well ownership issues on this link.

Northwest Well Protest – Resolved!
After nearly eight years, the citizen protest against the City of Santa Fe’s proposed excessive pumping of the NW well is now concluded!

The Settlement Agreement among the Protestants, the City, and the State Engineer’s Office accomplished the three goals we set out to achieve:

  • Future pumping of the NW well has been reduced from the proposed 900 AFY (acre feet per year) down to 650 AFY;
  • The City’s ambitious plan to expand their water rights portfolio has been curtailed to a reasonable level; and
  • The City has implemented the NW Well Monitoring Program as required by the Agreement. Data from this program will be used to monitor water levels in the aquifer, the crucial source of our private well water supply.

There was a discussion of water issues at the 2013 Annual Meeting. See the Summary Page for details.

Go to article on this page about
The Northwest Well | Why the NWW is Important | The First Protest, 2002 | Wet Water |
Facts, not FictionNWW: Concern, Commitment + Education | Well Monitoring

See the SFBWA/TRA Summary Fact Sheet: NW Well Protest that was distributed at the March 16 neighborhood meeting.

For information about TRA wells and the Aamodt process, see Aamodt Settlement Agreement page.

For facts about the likelihood of a County Water Utility in our neighborhood, see Is There a County Water Utility (CWU) in TRA’s Future??

For Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners Resolutions, see BCC Resolutions

The Northwest Well:

The Northwest Well (NW Well) is located within the city limits, just south of the city/county line and west of Camino de los Montoyas.  It’s within a few thousand feet of the domestic wells in the south-central area of the Tano Road neighborhood.

The NW Well is 2,000 feet deep, and one of over 20 wells that comprise the city well field.  City wells, including the NW Well, are contributing to a general decline in the aquifer of about 2.3 feet per year.

Why the NWW is important:

The City’s NW Well is important to domestic well users in our area because it’s CLOSE, it’s DEEP, and it’s POWERFUL.

The NW Well is located within a few thousand feet of the domestic wells in the south-central area of the Tano Road neighborhood, and also the northeast area of the Fin del Sendero neighborhood.  The well is within the city limits, just south of the city/county line and west of Camino de los Montoyas.

Tano Road area wells are drilled to depths of about 600 to 900 feet.  The nearby NW Well is 2,000 feet deep, so it can “mine” or “harvest” ground water from the aquifer that clearly trumps our neighborhood’s well water use.

The City’s well is so deep that it has the capacity to pump water at different levels — at the 500 to 900-foot level, where most Tano Road wells draw from, and below 1,000 feet, drawing water from beneath our well depths and potentially undercutting the water levels of our wells.

The pumping power of the NW Well is HUGE.  For some perspective, there are about 360 Tano Road households that rely on private or shared domestic wells as their sole source of water  Let’s assume that homes in our area use 0.25 acre feet or 82,000 gallons of water per year.  This is a common restriction by the county, although some homes may use more or less.

If the City used the NW Well at full production with maximum pumping rights of 900 acre feet or 293 million gallons of water per year, it could produce enough water to supply the needs of 3,600 additional households in our neighborhood!!

The City’s proposed use of the NW Well specifically and substantially affects the Tano Road area and its residents.  The TRA and SFBWA Boards, fifteen other neighborhood groups and organizations, along with legal and hydrological experts are working to minimize or eliminate the impact of the NW Well on nearby domestic wells through the OSE public hearing process.  Our goal is to ensure that our long-term domestic well water supply is protected according to New Mexico law.

THE NW WELL: The First Protest, 2002

In 2001, the City of Santa Fe applied to the Office of State Engineer (OSE) for a pumping permit for the NW Well.  The close proximity of this 2,000-foot deep well to the domestic wells in our Tano Road neighborhood prompted the TRA to protest the city’s pumping application.  TRA partnered with the Santa Fe Basin Water Association (SFBWA) and raised funds to retain legal counsel and a hydrologist. Board members from the two organizations volunteered their time and efforts, and proceeded through the ninemonth-long OSE hearing process.

In January, 2002, the State Engineer granted the city a ten-year temporary permit, and capped pumping of the NW Well at 900 acre feet per year (AFY).  This permit was intended as a 10-year stop gap
measure to provide supplemental water to the city while a new surface water source was planned and built. The State Engineer’s goal was to reduce the city’s dependency on the limited quantities of ground water, and create a water use future based primarily on a renewable supply of surface water.

The city has pumped the NW Well according to the 2002 permit, at an
average of 400 AFY, over the past ten years. Monitoring records are
maintained by the OSE and TRA/SFBWA, and there is a NW Well monitoring record link below.

Since 2002, the city and county developed the Buckman Direct Diversion (BDD), a major surface water source that draws from the Rio Grande. The BDDwas completed and came online in 2011, and the NW Well 2002 permit expired in January, 2012.

Now, in spite of city ground water conservation policy to “rest the
aquifer by using city wells less,” the City Water Division has re-applied to use the NW Well as a production well, asking the OSE for the right to pump 900 AFY in perpetuity.

What is Wet Water and Why Should I Care?

Over 70 years ago, the city was granted thousands of acre feet of water rights, but only a portion of these rights have been put to “beneficial use”, such as water being distributed to the city’s municipal water system customers.  The city well field is entitled to 4,865 acre feet of water per year (AFY), but has used only 3,507 AF.

This leaves the city with 1,358 AF of unused or “unperfected” water rights.  The only way the city can “perfect” these unused water rights is to put to beneficial use the remaining 1,358 AF by using “wet water” for a prescribed purpose and number of years.  “Wet water” is actual ground or surface water from the aquifer, streams, rivers and acequias, as opposed to water rights on paper.

Which brings us to the NW Well, a key element in the city’s campaign to perfect or put to beneficial use the unused 1,358 AF of water rights. Pumping 900 AFY of wet water from the NW Well would put the city that much closer towards their goal of a stockpile of 4,865 AF of perfected water rights.

The effects of the city’s intentions to use as much wet water as it takes to perfect their unused water rights could impact residents in the entire Santa Fe area to greater or lesser degrees, depending on location and water use methods.  The impact could be particularly detrimental to certain domestic well users in the city and county, as well as households that depend on stream systems or acequias as their sole water source.

The TRA/SFBWA (Tano Road Association/Santa Fe Basin Water Association) water team, along with the 17-member NW Well Protest Alliance, is the only force pushing back against the city’s aggressive over-reach to use wet water to develop their unused, and arguable unnecessary, water rights.

Facts, not Fiction

In a recent flyer handed out by the City of Santa Fe Water Division (put on our cars at our February 20 water meeting – see flyer), the City states:  “Domestic wells don’t have water rights, yet contribute markedly to declining water levels and the mining of the regional aquifer.”

Fact: There are over 14,000 domestic wells in Santa Fe County, including a sizable number located in the City.

Fact: Yes, these domestic well users do have permitted water rights. A property owner’s access to a water supply for domestic use is a fundamental right granted in the New Mexico State Constitution under Article 2, Section 4.

These constitutionally inherent rights are stated as: “All persons are born equally free, and have certain natural, inherent and inalienable rights, among which are the rights of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and of seeking and obtaining safety and happiness.”

Fact: The New Mexico State legislature has implemented a statute, 72-12-1.1, clearly outlining their intentions in allowing property owners the right to water for domestic use. According to 72-12-1.1, a person desiring to use public underground waters as described in this section… or for other domestic use, shall make application to the state engineer.  Permits for domestic use within municipalities shall be conditioned to
require the permittee to comply with all applicable municipal ordinances.

Fact: Santa Fe County property owners, domestic well users, and other alternative-source water users are guaranteed access to a water supply for domestic use under the law of the State of New Mexico.

For further information:
  See Ordinances and Resolutions

  (The New Mexico Groundwater Association)

It is important for all of us to understand the facts so that we can work toward a fair and equitable solution for all residents of Santa Fe, city and county.


CONCERN: TRA is concerned about the impact of NW Well pumping on nearby
domestic wells in the Tano area

COMMITMENT: As one of 17 member organizations of the NW Well Protest
Alliance, TRA is committed to promoting conservative and responsible use
of Tesuque aquifer groundwater by the city, and all water users in the
area of the NW Well


*** The Tano Road neighborhood will be living with the NW Well and its impact on our domestic wells over the long term

*** TRA will continue to keep informed about NW Well pumping data.

*** TRA is initiating a “domestic well and water conservation” education effort to empower our neighborhood and domestic well users to effectively “manage” our proximity to the NW Well

*** The TRA Board will be implementing an education effort, informing well users and other residents about:
— Well maintenance, such as how to test water quality or measure water levels in wells
— Documentation well owners should have on file
— How to implement indoor and outdoor water conservation measures as outlined in County Ordinance 2002-13
— The easiest ways for TRA well owners to support the County and OSE domestic well metering programs

*** After the NW Well protest has concluded, TRA will maintain a
permanent “water fund” in order to respond to developing NW Well data as needed, such as conducting water level measurements of selected Tano area wells, or consulting a hydrologist.

Monitoring the NW Well:

TRA has recorded NW Well usage from 2002 through March 2014.  Click here to see this pumping data. All NW Well pumping is monitored by the City, recorded with the Office of State Engineer, and will be retrieved for analysis as needed in the future by TRA’s hydrologist