Our ground water supply is limited, and very precious. Recently ground water supplies have seen anywhere from a dramatic drop to just a little less in their water supply, and the southwest has been hit particularly hard. Especially in older rural areas, water is their whole way of life. I’m interested in how the effects of climate change on ground water in the south west effect people.
On my way home from Madrid, New Mexico last weekend, I had the opportunity to tour a well. The owner had 11 similar wells in the area. From these wells he makes his entire living. Farmers from the area come to his wells to fill truck tanks with water to use for their farm animals and gardens. Knowing water rights are very sticky and often troublesome, I asked him if he had ever had trouble over the years with his rights changing or being taken away. He said he was in the middle of declaring them at the time, but had never had trouble with them before. To have the rights to 11 wells that pump, he said, from 9 AM to 6 PM every day, he owns acres and acres of land that have been in his family for generations, and every one of his 11 wells had been drilled before 1970, so his ground water rights were different than those of someone with a newer well. All of his wells were at 150 feet, even though the water table right outside of Madrid is still at only 35 feet. When I asked why this is, he said it’s a lot more work to drill and complete a well only to have to go back and redrill again later than it is to just do it right the first time. He wanted the deepest, most reliable wells that would function flawlessly for decades, so he put all 11 at 150 feet. Even decades ago he worried about the effects of climate change on ground water, and now he is also battling water rights changes along side many other south western farmers.
Although groundwater is a way of life for some, many people think little about it. Someone with extensive land and complicated water rights takes interest in knowing about groundwater because it is obvious to them that they have to, but the majority of citizens of the southwest know little to nothing because they feel it doesn’t effect them. Because no one can survive without water, everyone should not only take an interest in it, but also feel the responsibility each and every one of us holds.
The term “water rights” refers to the amount of both above and below ground water that is tied to a specific piece of land. In the south West, many use this water for crop irrigation.
When ground water changes, lives change, and here in the south west there isn’t really a back up plan for water, other than bringing it in from other places. I wanted to know how the very apparent reduction of usable ground water effects people, and the answer is badly. From sink holes to loss of livelihood, decline of water levels in underground sources is far from good, especially in the south west where the effects are particularly evident.