Water board votes to make 'priority call' on N.M.'s Pecos River

Posted: Apr 11, 2013

Written by

Felicity Barringer, New York Times

A small water agency in southern New Mexico has moved to force state agencies that control water distribution to deprive some users of their supplies.

The local agency, the Carlsbad Irrigation District, or C.I.D., acted to ensure that its alfalfa farmers receive the supplemental deliveries to which they say they are entitled.

The irrigation district voted unanimously last week to make what is known as a “priority call” on the Pecos River, a move that could force New Mexico’s Office of the State Engineer to reallocate supplies, relying on a longstanding priority list and assigning water to all the users of the river based on their seniority. On Tuesday, the district was pressing its case at meetings with state officials.

The priority call, in the midst of the worst drought on record in the Pecos River Basin, which runs almost the full length of the state from north to south, could mean a loss of water for newer but more economically robust industries, including oil and gas extraction and cheese production. The oldest claims on water across the West tend to belong to the heirs of the farmers who first seeded the land in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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