Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act?

Title VI of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, also known as the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act, approves the settlement of the water rights claims of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso, Pueblo of Nambé, Pueblo of Pojoaque, and Pueblo of Tesuque (Settlement Pueblos); City of Santa Fe; Santa Fe County; and other water rights holders within the Pojoaque Basin. The Act also authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Commissioner of Reclamation, to plan, design, and construct a regional water system in the Pojoaque Basin. Additionally, the Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to acquire water rights on behalf of the four Pueblos and establishes the Aamodt Settlement Pueblos’ Fund. 

What is the history of the tribal water rights claims?

In 1966, the New Mexico State Engineer brought suit against all water right claimants in the Pojoaque River Basin to determine the nature and extent of the claimants' water rights in a case entitled State of New Mexico ex re. State Engineer v. Aamodt, No. 66cv6639 MV/LCS (D.N.M.) (the Aamodt case). Forty years later, an initial Settlement Agreement was developed in May 2006, which was later conformed to the terms of the Settlement Act in April 2012. An integral and critical component of the Settlement Agreement is the development of a regional water system. 

Why is a Regional Water System included in the Settlement Agreement?

The Regional Water System is included in the settlement in exchange for the Pueblos agreeing to reduce their claims to water within the basin and to limit their priority calls against existing non-Pueblo water users. By bringing up to 4,000 acre-feet per year into the basin, the Regional Water System has made settlement possible by providing additional water to be allocated among users.

Who would pay for the Regional Water System?

The Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act authorized $106.4 million in federal money (October 2006 dollars) to be spent on the Regional Water System.   In addition, the State of New Mexico will contribute $49.5 million (October 2006 dollars) from state appropriations, and the County of Santa Fe will contribute $21.4 million (October 2006 dollars).

Who would administer the Regional Water System?

A Regional Water Authority would be formed to operate and maintain the Regional Water System after construction is completed. The Regional Water Authority would have a board made up of representatives of the Settlement Pueblos (Nambé, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque) and Santa Fe County. 

Where would the water come from?

The water for the Regional Water System (enough to provide up to 4,000 acre-feet of consumptive use annually) would come from the Rio Grande. The Pueblos would have water rights for approximately 2,500 acre-feet of water for annual consumptive use (1,079 acre-feet of San Juan-Chama Project water; 1,141 acre-feet of water acquired by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, from Santa Fe County; and 302 acre-feet of Nambé reserved water rights). Santa Fe County has been allocated sufficient capacity in the Regional Water System for up to 1,500 acre-feet of water for annual consumptive use. Santa Fe County would provide this water from water rights it owns to supply non-Pueblo RWS users. These water rights would include 611 acre-feet of Top of the World water rights and up to 889 acre-feet of water rights transferred to the county from existing groundwater wells as well owners elect to hook up to the RWS, or from other sources, including additional upstream water rights, San Juan-Chama project water, or in-basin transfers from non-domestic water rights.

How would the water get to the Pueblos and the county residents?

A water collection facility on lands belonging to the Pueblo de San Ildefonso would take water out of the Rio Grande and send it to a water treatment plant, to be constructed as part of the project. After being treated to meet Safe Drinking Water Act standards, the water would then flow through a transmission and distribution system consisting of pipelines, pumping plants, short-term storage tanks, and other necessary facilities to Pueblo members and other county residents in the Pojoaque Basin.

Can the county serve residents outside of the Pojoaque Basin?

Since publication of the Draft EIS in January 2017, the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer has issued a permit authorizing interim uses anywhere within the County Water Utility service area. This satisfied the requirement of Section 614(d)(2) of the Settlement Act. While the County may decide to use RWS water for interim uses outside the basin, no specific plans for such use have been proposed. If a future interim use were proposed, it would be subject to appropriate environmental compliance requirements.

What kinds of facilities would be built for the Regional Water System?

The following main project features are expected to be built:
  • Primary source water collection on the Rio Grande (both side-channel surface diversion and subsurface collection options are being considered)
  • Water treatment facility
  • Short-term storage tanks
  • Water transmission and distribution system, including pipelines, pumping plants, forebay tanks, and other associated facilities
  • Optional backup water supply
  • Electrical power service, including new electrical distribution lines

What options do I have under the Settlement Agreement?

The EIS is not addressing connecting options and associated water rights. The settling of water rights is not part of Reclamation's action to be analyzed. For information on water rights under the Settlement Agreement, visit the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer Revised Aamodt Settlement Agreement FAQs.

How will the Settlement Agreement impact me?

The EIS is not addressing impacts of the Settlement Agreement on water rights. The settling of water rights is not part of Reclamation's action to be analyzed. For information on water rights under the Settlement Agreement, visit the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer Revised Aamodt Settlement Agreement FAQs.

How would my water costs change as a result of the RWS?

Because of the highly variable level of current monthly water costs for users in the Pojoaque Basin, costs to connect to the RWS may represent decreased, increased, or similar costs, as compared with current water costs. Section 4.22, Socioeconomic Resources, in the Final EIS includes a more detailed discussion of potential water cost impacts under each RWS alternative. You can find the Final EIS here.

What are the opportunities for public involvement during this EIS process?

There are three formal opportunities for public involvement during the EIS process: (1) public scoping meetings and comment at the beginning of the project (completed), (2) public meetings and comment on the Draft EIS (completed), and (3) public input during the mandatory waiting period of a minimum of 30 days after publication of the Final EIS. While these are the formal opportunities for public involvement, public input is accepted throughout the EIS process.

When will the EIS process be completed?

The EIS process was completed with the publication of the Final EIS in January 2018, with a Record of Decision expected to be signed in winter-spring 2018.

When will the Regional Water System be completed?

Under the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act, the Regional Water System must be substantially completed by June 30, 2024. 

Where can I find information about the NM Office of the State Engineer's involvement in the Aamodt Settlement?

Please visit the Office of the State Engineer's Aamodt Information webpage.

Where can I find information about Santa Fe County's involvement in the Aamodt Settlement?

Please visit Santa Fe County's webpage on Aamodt Settlement Agreement and Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System.

Where can I find general information about the Aamodt Settlement?

Please visit Links and Resources.

What types of surveys is Reclamation conducting for the RWS?

The development of the RWS requires substantial field survey efforts to identify potential pipeline alignment constraints. Beginning in the fall of 2013 and running through the summer of 2017, survey teams identified sensitive species and habitat issues, cultural resource constraints, and areas of river or stream erosion along the proposed route. For more information about what these surveys entailed, see Survey Activities.

I am a landowner within the RWS general project area. What does it mean for me to grant a right of entry to Reclamation and its contractors?

The Bureau of Reclamation requested permission to access private property located within the RWS project boundaries during the planning stage of the project for the purpose of performing surveys for engineering and natural and cultural resources data collection. Landowners are not be held liable for the cost of this work or for possible injuries to Federal employees or government contractors while on private property. Representatives from Reclamation and government contractors will NOT enter private property without the express permission of the property owner. Property owners can revoke their permission at any time. For more information, visit Information for Landowners.