Seventh Judicial District Court Div. II Judge Matthew Reynolds affirmed the State Engineer's Order Denying Application by Augustin Plans Ranch LLC, applicant/appellant, for an underground water permit to divert and use waters from the San Augustin Basin in Catron County.

In the amended application of May 5, 2008, the applicant filed with the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer for permit to appropriate underground water. Location of wells lists 37 proposed wells on the applicant's ranch in Catron County, NM.


The top depth of wells are listed as 3,000 feet; the casing diameter, 20 inches; and the expected yield of each well at 2,000 gallons a minute. Quantity requested is 54,000 acre-feet annually for consumptive use and diversion. Purpose of use lists domestic, livestock, irrigation, municipal, industrial, commercial and "other." The other purposes listed include environmental, recreational, subdivision and related, replacement and augmentation. However, specific use was left blank.

Places of use include within the exterior boundaries of Augustin Plains Ranch, as well as other proposed places of use: "Any areas within Catron, Sierra, Socorro, Valencia, Bernalillo, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties that are situated within the geographic boundaries of the Rio Grande Basin in New Mexico."

Additional statements or explanations were filled in by the applicant to cite the "purpose of this amended application is to provide water by pipeline to supplement or offset the effects of existing uses and for new uses in the areas designated in Attachment B (listed above) in order to reduce the current stress on the water supply in New Mexico. Any impairment of existing right, in the Gila-San Francisco Basin, the Rio Grande Basin, or any other basin, that would be caused by the pumping applied for, will be offset or replaced."

A modification to the amended application, emailed on June 26, 2008, said "the purpose and place of use, … will be used for irrigation on Augustin Ranch… limited to 120 acres within a 1,290 foot radius of each of the 37 well locations… (to total) 4,440 acres."

Discussion pointed out that "The right to use water in New Mexico is based upon the New Mexico Constitution, which expresses the water law of prior appropriation existing at the constitution's adoption a century ago: 'Although the water in the public stream belongs to the public,' unappropriated water is 'subject to appropriation for beneficial use.' Once appropriated, 'priority of appropriation shall give the better right.'"

Under New Mexico law, "there is statutory procedure for establishing the right to use underground water pursuant to Chapter 72, Article 12 NMSA 1978. Statute declares that underground waters with reasonably ascertainable boundaries belong to the public and are available for beneficial use."

The State Engineer has two options for applications that are opposed—he may deny the application without a hearing or may order that a hearing be held.

In this case, more than 900 protests were filed. The State Engineer on March 20, 2012, entered an order denying application, saying: "the application is so vague and overbroad that it cannot be reasonably evaluated… and that the application should be dismissed without prejudice to filing of subsequent applications, and that the hearing should be dismissed."

Applicant argued that once the Office of the State Engineer accepted the application and published the notice, the state engineer could not reject the application without a hearing.

In reviewing the state engineer's decision, "this court has determined that the application had to be denied by the state engineer for the following reasons: (1) the application fails to specify the beneficial purpose and the place of use of water; and (2) the application contradicts beneficial use as the basis of a water right and the public ownership of water, as declared in the New Mexico Constitution."

The memorandum of the review by the 7th Judicial District Court states: "New Mexico courts have long considered specificity to be a statutory requirement for an underground water permit." Several cases were cited.

Dismissing the application without prejudice allows the applicant to reapply with specificity.

In conclusion, the District Judge states: "There are no genuine issues of material fact, and Protestants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The State Engineer's Order Denying Application is affirmed. Counsel for the state engineer shall prepare the order reflecting this decision."

Live from Silver City

Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates

Welcome to Three Times Weekly Updates! You will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.
You can unsubscribe anytime. We never share or rent your email to anyone.

Fire Alerts

Editor's Note

The Grant County Beat endeavors to post to the Elections page, under News, at the least, notices of candidates for Grant County races. Some candidates for statewide races have also sent their notices. 

The Beat continues to bring you new columnists.Recent additions  include the Christian Corner, for those who are already Christians or are exploring the beliefs.

The second is a business-centered column—Your Business Connection by the New Mexico Business Coalition. The group works to make policy in the state of New Mexico better for all businesses, large and small.

The Beat has a column for you gardeners out there. The Grant County Extension Service will bring you monthly columns on gardening issues. The first one posted is on Winterizing your houseplants and patio plants.

The Beat totally appreciates its readers!  


All articles and photos indicated by a byline are copyrighted to the author or photographer. You may not use any information found within the articles without asking permission AND giving attribution to the source. Photos can be requested and may incur a nominal fee for use personally or commercially.

Don't forget to tell advertisers that you saw their ad on the Beat.

Feel free to notify editor@grantcountybeat.com, if you notice any problems on the site. Your convenience is my desire for the Beat.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

If you subscribe to the Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates option on the left side of this page, you will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.

Note: This is another component that is in progress of going to a different software to make it easier for you to use and find classifieds that interest you. Check Out Classifieds. And look at Sponsors to see who is helping the Beat.

It's really easy to check to see if there's a classified ad. Just click on Classifieds in the blue menu and the page will open letting you know if there is a classified ad. Remember that your buying classified ads gives you a wide readership, as well as supporting the Beat. Post YOURS for quick results!

Note that if an article does not have a byline, it was sent to the Beat and written by someone not affiliated with the Beat

When you click on the blue and orange button on the upper left side of most pages, you will find out how you can help the Beat defray its expenses, which, with increased readership, continue to grow. You will arrive at a page that gives you options of how you can Help the Beat. All help is greatly appreciated and keeps the news you want and need coming into your browser.

Consider the Beat your DAILY newspaper for up-to-date information about Grant County. It's at your fingertips! One Click to Local News.

Thanks for your support for and your readership of Grant County's online news source—www.grantcountybeat.com