Aquifer Science, LLC v. Verhines, et al., Cause No. D-202-CV-2014-07209 (2nd Jud. D. N.M. Jan. 29, 2019).
The Second Judicial District Court of New Mexico applied the “conservation” element of the state’s ground water permit statute, NMSA 72-12-3, to uphold the Office of the State Engineer’s denial of a major developer’s (Aquifer Science) application to withdraw ground water in the East Mountains near Albuquerque. In reviewing the application de novo, Judge Shannon Bacon not only agreed with the local landowners who protested the permit that withdrawing the proposed amount of water would significantly impair existing water rights with no feasible mitigation plan, but also concluded that the developer’s application was “contrary to conservation of water within the state,” in violation of NMSA 72-12-3’s requirements. In denying the application, the court rejected Aquifer Science’s claim that that its plan achieved “conservation” by building golf courses as a place to reuse wastewater and determined that Aquifer Science’s other plans to conserve water through efficient appliances, fixtures, and landscaping were “speculative.” The court also concluded that the developer’s failure to consider the impact of climate change on the supply of surface water—and, thus, ground water—when calculating water demand “suggests a lack of long-term planning regarding conservation.”
Jessica Foster, Associate, Justin R. Kaufman, Partner, Rosalind Bienvenu, Associate