By Mary Alice Murphy
The New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity met in a special meeting on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, to hear updates from AECOM representatives.
Public input preceded the reports.
Richard Martin, a Grant County resident, said he has been involved at various times in the process, including during the bylaws and agreements. "I decided I wasn't going to follow the Kabuki Theater, but it's still rolling on. I'm alarmed at how much has been spent out of the $54 million. I'm glad you're getting interest. But I'm not seeing any money falling to the four counties. I worry it's another publicly financed operation the only a few will benefit from. Getting local engineers will be great. At a burn rate of $12.6 million, I worry the money is going to evaporate faster than the water. You have no land identified yet for the project. We would be much better served if the funds would be used in the four counties to heal and improve the watershed. I'm from San Diego, where they spend $1,500 per acre-foot for water. I would like to see everyone to use the funds to benefit the four counties. Don't be a charge number for other entities."
Allyson Siwik, Gila Conservation Coalition executive director, said the four-day Gila River Festival had just ended the previous day. "We had more than 3,000 participate from as far away as North Carolina, South Dakota and Colorado. They came to celebrate the last wild river in New Mexico. We had Apaches come from Fort Sill in Oklahoma to perform the Fire Dance. They recognize the natural resource value of the Gila."
She said the Festival put heads in beds, people in restaurants, so it was an economic driver. "You will make your decision on Oct. 3. The decision has the potential to impact this wonderful natural resource. Let's fund the municipal and local water projects to meet water needs."
Norm Gaume, retired engineer and former Interstate Stream Commission director, said he had requested the report that was to be presented from the Chairwoman Darr Shannon, but she replied that she had not received it.
"I find it appalling that you have no report to refer to during the presentations," Gaume said. "The scope of work was for 15 weeks and a half a million dollars. But nothing is in writing for you or anyone else to be able to study and ask questions about. I find that appalling."
He said when he was the ISC director in 2002, the state engineer had a hydrogeology study done on the Mimbers aquifer. Gaume said he spoke recently with the prime author of the study, Mike Johnson, who concluded in that study that Santa Clara and Bayard would run out of water by 2040. But he also suggested that wells be drilled by the airport, which would provide water for centuries to the Mining District.
"That is the project that the Grant County Water Commission took on," Gaume said. "I urge you to fund that project, which would offer water sustainability to the region."
ISC Gila Basin Manager Ali Effati brought forth copies of the AECOM report for the entity members and a few copies for the audience.
John Sikora of AECOM presented the Diversion and Yield Modeling services for Phase II B, which the company had completed in the past 15 weeks. He began with some history of the process. In 2016, the Phase IIA was completed, culminating in four alternatives for a New Mexico Unit. Two were selected by the NM CAP Entity to pursue, but were later rejected due to ownership issues.
Sikora said a recent workshop was held, in which two members of the CAP Entity and NMCAP staff participated, along with ISC staff and AECOM and Bohannon Huston engineers. In addition three engineers, Norm Gaume, Jim Brainerd and Peter Coha, who have worked on a model on expected yield took part in the workshop. They presented the Gaume/Coha model and Allen Campbell, CAP Entity member presented a model he has developed.
The workshop discussed the assumptions of Consumptive Use and Forbearance Agreement of the Arizona Water Settlements Act and how they were handled in modeling the system and how CUFA deals with Arizona water rights.
The participants talked about the existing New Mexico irrigation rights on the Gila and San Francisco rivers, and the San Carlos Reservoir.
"We need to figure out current decree diversions and how much water is available at the physical gages," Sikora said. "The gages have different periods of records. I think the AECOM team came away with a great understanding of the CUFA and the river system.
A diversion model flow chart shows demands and supplies and where New Mexico excess can go into a daily diversion. It lists the different CUFA diversions that must be met, including the Duncan Virden call; the San Carlos Reservoir condition, which must exceed 30,000 acre-feet for New Mexico to take water; New Mexico water rights; the annual maximum of 64,000 acre-feet allowed to be taken; the 10-year limit of 140,000 acre-feet to be taken; and the limits of a New Mexico CAP water bank of 18,000 acre-feet annually and 70,000 total.
An Upper Gila River schematic showed the five gages that impact the decisions. They are the Gila Gage at Gila, the Mogollon Gage near Cliff, the San Francisco Gage at Alma, the Virden Gage of the NM Upper Valley District of the Globe Equity Decress, and the San Francisco Gage at Clifton, Arizona. The San Francisco River is a tributary of the Gila, but does not join the Gila until near the Safford Valley.
Based upon the sum of Gila River Gage near Gila and the San Francisco River near Clifton, the Gila Rive can provide 113,656 acre-feet of water per year; and 153,509 acre-feet at the Clifton Gage. The Gila River at the head of Safford Valley has yield of 325,264 af/yr.
The Upper Valley Districts of the Gila in the Globe Equity Decree have a CUFA demand in Duncan-Virden of 29,384 af/yr and the Safford Valley UVD has a CUFA demand of 195,264 af/yr.
"A significant amount of water is available," Sikora said. "The question is whether it is available at the time and value needed."
On the Gila River in New Mexico, six major ditches divert 23,900 af/yr to irrigate 874 acres. On the San Francisco River, eight major ditches divert 14, 200 af/yr to irrigate 881 acres.
A graph showed when the water is available and when it is needed, with much of the water available in the shoulder months of the agricultural season of summer. "We need to move that water to make it available in May-October," Sikora said. "We have to determine how to store the water when it's available to have it for the irrigation season. And how to optimize diversions to meet demands. One thing the CUFA does not determine is the water rights in New Mexico."
NM CAP Entity member, representing the San Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District, Howard Hutchinson asked for clarification that only surface water in the San Francisco was measured, not water from wells. Sikora confirmed that was the case.
Representing Hidalgo Soil and Water Conservation District, Vance Lee asked about the lower ditches closer to Virden. Sikora said he would double check them.is about
Joe Runyan, representing the Gila Farm Ditch, said he was unaware of any irrigation out of wells in the Upper Gila.
B.J. Agnew, representing the Upper Gila Ditch, said he wanted to clarify that the available acreage in the Upper Gila is about half of what is irrigated.
From New Mexico Office of the State Engineer records, a graph shows the minimum bypass and existing adjudicated rights, listing the CUFA conditions New Mexico bypass requirements and the downstream rights at Duncan/Virden, Gila River, San Francisco Rivers and additional Arizona demand. Required CUFA bypass amounts are greater in the same months as the higher needs for water to fulfill downstream rights.
A comprehensive Gila River Diversion Model is available for viewing on pages 16-22 of http://nmcapentity.org/documents/presentations/52-presentation-nmcap-diversion-yield-presentation-sept-25-2017-final
Sikora said with the Gila River Diversion Model, with a small diversion, "we are trying to even out the diversions. We are running simulations to the optimum goal of getting the full 14,000 allocated acre-feet per year. We are also looking at alternatives to find a way to provide water in zero flow years."
In the same model, he said the median annual yield is 13,558 acre-feet, with the average annual yield at 10,344 af. The median annual flow in cfs is 6,848, with the average annual flow at 5,224 cfs. "This tells us we have a bunch of highs and a bunch of lows. With a median annual flow of 6,848, a lot of days you can divert 30 to 50 cfs. These occur mainly pre-May and in the later shoulder season through October."
Campbell asked if during low to zero flow years, the entity could use water banking in order to receive the benefits. "We would use CUFA water to supplement what we have. Is there a way to bank adjudicated rights and readjust them with the additional use of CUFA water? It's just an idea."
Sikora had no answer, but noted that most of the zero years were in the 1930s and '40s. "San Carolos in the CUFA is really important. The CAP wants San Carlos to be successful, so you can take water."
Runyan said he had a fish farm in Mexico. "Aquaculture requires less water, and then you can use it for irrigation and put it back into the river. It could work all year."
Sikora said: "We are talking 100 percent consumption. Right now we are talking about diversions. Later we will talk about reliability in the yield. Yes, there are higher value crops that could benefit from a stable water supply."
"There is no stipulation on how long we can store water, " Runyan said. "One hour or one year or more."
Hutchinson said during the modeling discussion, "we agreed that diverted water is 100 percent consumption. How do we get credit for return flows after we get the structure built?"
Sikora said that if ASR is available, and "you want to take the water at a slower rate, it can recharge the aquifer. We have to optimize the project based on the diversion."
On page 20, of the above-mentioned report, Sikora said the red line shows legally available water, the green line denotes physically available water and blue is the optimum amount that could be taken.
He said the Mogollon diversion model would have 100 cfs as the optimum to take the water, but "you need surface storage. With ASR, it is a two to three month delay to make it to the stream. Surface water will also have evaporation.
For the San Francisco Diversion Model, the average annual yield is 3,860 af.
Yield Model results showed realized yield versus potential diversion. A Gila diversion alternative with ASR (aquifer storage and recharge) would yield 85 percent of the actual water diverted, whereas a Gila diversion with ASR and Winn Reservoir would yield 89 percent of the water diverted. A Mogollon diversion going to Winn reservoir would yield only 64 percent, and a San Francisco diversion with Weedy Reservoir would yield 83 percent.
"Everything becomes smaller, if you can optimize all the systems," Sikora said. "We are looking at them all separately. We have to meld the basin and CUFA. But we are studying how to optimize the two basins under CUFA."
Campbell said: "We have to build the diversion system so we can feed the system. We will have to overcome zero years through the CUFA. Silver City has redundancy to overcome any problems."
Sikora said: "We all know that your focus is on agricultural projects at this time. The on demand will depend on the crop type. We need to blend the water use and the type of agriculture."
Bullet points and graphs on pages 24-28 address realized versus potential diversions on the different projects in the different basins.
The capacity to meet demands varies by project. The Gila Diversion with ASR only, meets the 3,000 acre-feet of demand only 26 percent of the time. The Gila Diversion with ASR and Winn Reservoir meets the same demand 89 percent of the time. The Mogollon diversion with Winn Reservoir meets demand 64 percent of the time. The San Francisco diversion with Weedy reservoir meets its 1,000 acre-feet of demand 88 percent of the time.
NM CAP Entity attorney Pete Domenici Jr. asked Sikora to describe a year of activity.
Sikora said with six 35 acre-foot ponds, at 150 cfs, each would receive about 25 cfs. If you want to capture more use the ratio equation. "If you can get 85 percent, 15 percent stays in the river to maintain flow."
Runyan asked because of evaporation in reservoirs, would ASR be cheaper.
"It’s a matter of conveying the water," Sikora said. "We have to determine how reliable each is."
Runyan said if "we have the two systems working together, it would be better. If you put it in the aquifer, you can access it at about a 15-foot static level, and don't have to depend on a large reservoir."
Sikora said the ASR and Winn provide 89 percent reliability. "You can pump if you have demand. If not, you can pump to storage."
"We all want an environmentally sound system," Runyan said.
Chairwoman Darr Shannon asked where the numbers come from.
"From earlier numbers," Sikora said. "With ASR, it's not like it's a large bowl. The end of the aquifer is the river. Depending on when it is infiltrated to when it is used, it's assimilating all the systems together. The limit to ASR is in infiltration basins. We used 80 years of numbers."
Campbell opined that because of environmental and vegetation changes, "I think it is more important to model for shorter periods."
Lee asked about ASR. "The Upper Gila Valley irrigates 880 acres. In Virden, we irrigate 2, 800. We have talked about using ASR to slow the water down, so we can get it in Virden. How do we know when it's CUFA water or adjudicated water?"
Sikora said it's a question of dominion through control. "There has been more of a move to determine dominion through control, using engineering and legality."
Domenici said the legal part would be complicated. "We would have to go through the Technical Committee to make the determination after the water has gone through ASR.
"I'm hearing it will be difficult for Virden to access AWSA water," Lee said.
"There are two options," Domenici said. "Direct diversion when it's allowable. It's easier to measure. It depends on how measurable ASR is."
"It seems to me that a New Mexico Unit would have little impact on Virden," Lee said.
Sikora said ASR with Winn Reservoir in the Gila or Mogollon or the San Francisco with Weedy would work.
Domenici asked about direct diversion in the San Francisco without a reservoir.
"We can optimize for direct use," Sikora said. To Hutchinson, he asked: "Do you still want 1,000 acre-feet of new water?" Hutchinson replied: "Yes."
Runyan said he thinks most irrigators would agree that with more in farm ponds and less in ditches, "we would have enough head to push the water into the fields."
The average annual return to stream with ASR only for the Gila Diversion is 8,100 AF and with ASR and Winn Reservoir 6,800 AF.
The next steps for the yield model are to review San Carlos operations; optimize diversion model inputs by refining diversion rates and improving timing of diverted flows; and field investigations for hydrogeological characteristics of ASR.
The next report and the rest of the meeting will be covered in the next article.