If You Want to Meter Your Domestic Well: Guidelines

Both the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) and Santa Fe County SFC) impose well metering and reporting (WMR) requirements in the TRA area. OSE metering is outlined in Rules and Regulations, Section 19.27.5.13 C. SFC requirements are defined in the County Land Use Code, but manifest themselves in both HOA and subdivision Covenants, and Shared Well Agreements, via a County land development permit.

The OSE requirements are relatively clear and well documented. The SFC requirements are less clear and subject to change by amendments and updates to the Land Use Code. Based on the documents referenced at the conclusion of this summary, our best understanding of the OSE and SFC requirements for well metering and reporting are as follows.

OSE REQUIREMENTS

Applicability: WMR requirements apply to all shared wells, although may be applied to private wells under particular circumstances. In general, private wells are not required to be metered, or to report water use. However, this may change under new Water Master rules and policies applicable to TRA wells located in the Aamodt Settlement area.

Metering: A totalizing meter must be installed before the first branch of the discharge line from the well. The objective is to capture the TOTAL use of water from the well, not the use by each individual residence or any breakdown of indoor/outdoor domestic use.

Recording: Quarterly readings must be taken within 10 days of the beginning of each quarter.

Reporting: Each reading must be submitted to the local OSE District Office.

Limits: Generally, 3 AFY maximum from a shared well in total, or 1 AFY from a private well, with exceptions. Certain other designated wells are permitted 0.7 AFY. TRA wells in the Aamodt Settlement area are permitted at 0.3 AFY, 0.5 AFY and 0.7 AFY, or in some cases, `15% reduction off perfected beneficial use.

SFC REQUIREMENTS, HOA AND SUBDIVISION COVENANTS

Applicability: WMR requirements apply to all wells in a subdivision with a permit that includes County water restrictions. Requirements are incorporated into HOA and subdivision Covenants.

Metering: A County-approved meter (or meters) must be installed on the well. In the Land Use Code, there is no requirement for installing individual line meters on shared wells. However, some HOA and subdivision Covenants may require this. It is not clear whether the County requires a totalizing meter, or individual waterline meters, or both, on shared wells.

Recording: Annual readings must be taken within two weeks of the start of each year.

Reporting: Readings must be provided to the Code Administrator ONLY ON REQUEST. Each property that is required to report readings will receive a mailing from SFC containing a post card that can be filled out and returned. An online reporting method may be available.

Limits: As specified in the subdivision permit or HOA Covenants, usually 0.25 AFY per household, but sometime 0.4 AFY or other amount.

SFC REQUIREMENTS IN SHARED WELL AGREEMENTS

Applicability: WMR requirements apply to homeowners via shared well agreements.

Metering: Depends on the specific well agreement. Typically, individual water meters are required for each residence.

Recording: There are no recording requirements. However, neighbors using a shared well can inspect each other’s meters.

Reporting: There are no reporting requirements.

Limits: As specified in the subdivision permit or HOA Covenants.

DISCUSSION

For shared well users to fully comply with both OSE and SFC metering requirements can be unduly burdensome and costly. The metering requirements of the two government agencies are divergent, and their data bases are not coordinated, so it is possible that a well might comply with one agency’s rules but not the other’s.

On shared wells, the OSE requires the installation of a water meter large enough to connect on a 2-inch discharge line. Depending on the well’s plumbing, the discharge line may need to be repositioned to accommodate the meter. As a result, the meter and installation could cost as much at $2,000. SFC shared well agreements typically require individual meters on the water line to each residence. These meters only need to connect to a 3/4-inch or 1-inch line, and the installed cost is about $700 per residence.

OSE-compliant meters must be installed in the underground pump vault unless the first branch of the discharge lines occurs outside. Reading the meter requires climbing down into the well vault four times a year (or hiring someone to do this), inconvenient at best and potentially hazardous.

SFC-compliant individual residence meters can be installed either outside (in a weather-proof can) or indoors in a mechanical room. This arrangement makes it easier and safer to take readings and monitor usage on a regular basis.

With individual meters on each residence of a shared well, the total water usage can be easily
computed by adding together the usages of each residence. Under these circumstances, it appears unnecessary to install the total usage meter required by the OSE. However, the Santa Fe District office of the OSE has informed us that their normal practice is to require the total usage meter even when each residence is already metered.

The OSE requires the model designation, serial number and dial arrangement of the total usage meter to be registered as part of the well record. Apparently, the objective is for the OSE to make sure that the readings are consistent with the meter details. Summing individual meters would not allow this, and there is also room for error in the calculation. However, the OSE might be willing to allow all the individual meters to be registered in the well record. This would involve more work for the OSE to perform the total usage calculation, and they normally do not support this.

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REFERENCES

[1] NM OSE, “Rules and Regulations governing the use of Public Underground Waters for Household or other Domestic Use”, Section 19.27.5.13 C., Chapter 27 Underground Water, Title 19 Natural Resources and Wildlife, October 31, 2011.
[2] Santa Fe County, “Land Development Code”, effective October 10, 1996.
[3]Santa Fe County, Ordinance 2004-7, “Amending Ordinance 2002-13: an Ordinance addressing Water Conservation for all Residential and Commercial uses of Water within Santa Fe County”, Section “Domestic Well Use Metering Program”, November 23, 2004.
[4] Tanoito Subdivision, Covenants (1991) and Shared Well Agreement (1993).
[5] Sundance Estates Homeowner Association, Covenants and Water Restrictions (2000) and Shared Well Declaration (2001).