[Editor's Note: This is part 1 of a multi-part series of articles on the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity meeting held Feb. 6, 2018 at the Grant County Administration Center.]
By Mary Alice Murphy
New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity Chairwoman Darr Shannon, when the agenda was being approved asked that the presentation by Norm Gaume, retired engineer and former Interstate Stream Commission director, be moved to before public comment. A motion was made and approved to do so.
Gaume said he would discuss two items. The first was the application of basic arithmetic to the facts. Second, he would present a model to estimate the amount of usable water out of a proposed reservoir.
He noted the proposed action to build a New Mexico Unit has a reservoir [Editor's Note: Proposed to be in Winn Canyon] that will store about 2,300 acre-feet of Arizona Water Settlements Act water, as allowed by the Consumptive Use and Forbearance Act.
Gaume asked how much acreage could be irrigated with water from the proposed action NM units-600 or 9,000 acres? "I used basic arithmetic to determine that 2,300 acre-feet of stored water is almost enough to supply 20 cfs demand of one ditch for two months."
Users have said the need for supplemental water is greatest in May and June.
Gaume's calculations determine that 1 cfs for one day, equals 1.98 acre-feet, so 20 cfs for one day is 39.6 acre-feet of water. Therefore 2,300 acre-feet divided by 39.6 acre-feet a day equals 58 days, if no losses are calculated. In 2015, the Upper Gila Ditch irrigated 507 acres; the Fort West Ditch, 503 and the Gila Farms Ditch 353. He said the 2,300 acre-feet of stored water is almost enough to supply 20 cfs demand of one ditch for two months, because 2,300 acre-feet of stored water can irrigate about 500 acres of crops.
He cited the ISC annual reports that show 4.6 feet of irrigation water is needed to meet annual crop water needs in the Cliff-Gila Valley. The annual reports are required to comply with the reporting requirements of the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decree of Arizona v. California.
Gaume suggested that what should be addressed instead of storage of water are the existing inefficiencies in the irrigations systems in the Cliff-Gila Valley.
The court determined during adjudication of water rights that the on-farm efficiency stands at 55 percent. The ISC determined it as 75 percent efficiency.
"But with evaporation and other losses, to get 3 acre-feet, you have to put on 4 acre-feet," Gaume said. According to his calculations, with 4.6 feet equaling 1.9 feet of consumptive irrigation requirement, the efficiency actually stands at 41 percent. He alleged the demand is 380 percent of what the Office of the State Engineer says.
He also said the water can be developed only when it is not needed for crops, so it needs to be captured and stored. He noted the proposed action contains no information about the location and size of Virden Valley storage ponds, so yield cannot be determined.
Gaume also says a New Mexico Unit on the San Francisco River develops zero new water, because the Weedy Reservoir is not included in the San Francisco River New Mexico Unit proposal.
In his PowerPoint presentation, Gaume said usable AWSA water is water released from a New Mexico Unit storage for contracted users' beneficial uses. "This determination takes a more sophisticated approach."
A model of usable water yield is needed to quantify usable AWSA water, while taking into account the availability of AWSA water for diversion into empty storage after meeting required bypass; and evaporation losses from stored water.
He said the engineering firm AECOM did not simulate the proposed action yield of usable water, which he called an obvious omission.
"You have to have a model to look at every day," Gaume said. "Whether there is water legally and whether there is enough water in the reservoir. You would have to calculate evaporation 29,600 times where you have data." ISC paid AECOM $111,000 for one task and more for others. "AECOM gave you a report. If you were confused, so was I. It didn't give you the yield."
He along with Peter Coha applied AECOM's model to simulate AWSA usable water over the 81-year period of record. "We found the mean annual yield to be 1,820 acre-feet. We used a particular pattern of 20 cfs per say. That volume of water is enough for 1.3 acre-feet of water per acre, as an average in 2014 and 2015.
He asked and answered how it compared to actual usage, leaving out the three winter months when water is not used.
"Every month of the year since the 1968 decree, what the actual crops needed to be diverted each month, compared to the actual gauge, showed that in the 2014 and 2015, no month was short of water," Gaume said. "The Gila Valley overall has rare shortages. The shortages show up in Redrock and Virden."
He then went into the AWSA exchange costs. "The rate New Mexico would pay this year to use AWSA water is $160 per acre-foot," He calculated to fill the 2,300-acre-foot reservoir would cost $368,000. To cover loss of 829 acre-feet of modeled mean evaporation would cost $132,640, which, he said, makes the exchange costs total $231 per usable acre-foot of new water.
Gaume also alleged neither the ISC nor the NM CAP Entity have determined operations and maintenance costs.
He said what he had put down were Norm Gaume estimates, not facts.
He estimated $160,000 for personnel; $40,000 for USGS CUFA-required flow measurements; $50,000 for engineering and legal services, which would be ongoing; $45,000 for fiscal, bookkeeping, billing and audit services; $25,000 or more for electricity for pumping $35,000 for vehicle and insurance; $45,000 for office and administrative expenses, including liability insurance; did not include maintenance and replacements; and finally $50,000 for Reclamation project assessment for a total of estimated annual NM Unit operating costs of $450,000.
With his calculations of average annual diversion to fill and refill the reservoir, it would require exchange costs for 2,649 acre-feet of water banking credits at $160 an acre-foot would cost $423,840 plus annual operations of $450,000 would be a price tag of $480 per acre-foot of new water.
In his conclusions, Gaume had in his PowerPoint presentation that the San Francisco River NM Unit would develop no new water and the Virden Valley NM Unit doesn't have enough information to allow calculation of new water yield.
He cited the mean Cliff-Gila Valley NM Unit reservoir evaporation losses at 700 acre-feet to more than 900 acre-fee annually, depending on the demand scenario. The losses require $112,000 to more than $144,000 per year for advance purchase of water banking credits.
The credits must be purchased each year from the Secretary of the Interior no later than the preceding year to cover all diversions.
Gaume showed tables that went into details on modeled yield scenarios, including the scenario he had just presented to the NM CAP Entity.
Graphs show the production of AWSA diversions under the proposed action as it might have related to records of 1937-2017, had the CUFA been in effect. Graphs showed the mean demand and availability by month.
CAP Entity Member Joe Runyan, representing the Gila Farm Ditch, asked about the possibility of efficiencies on irrigation. "And the return flow is not recorded."
Gaume said for the return flow, he would have to go back to ISC's records. "I presume the ISC is doing what it needs to do as required. The ISC has to measure and report diversions."
He said he could go over the records year-by-year with anyone who requested it.
Vance Lee, member representing Hidalgo County, said: "As I understand it, based on the diversion into one canal at 20 cfs, how would you adjust for multiple ditches with a total of 35 cfs?"
"We could do a model and show the output graphics," Gaume said. "I didn't use a diversion of 20 cfs, I used a release of that amount."
Lee said Gaume mentioned that sometimes even with the river full, no diversion might be taking place. "With the Globe Decree, we can have a full river, but can't divert."
Gaume said it was the difference between junior water rights and senior ones.
Member Ty Bays, representing the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District, said: "Reading between the lines, you don't think we know what we're doing. So, what do you suggest we do?"
"My first advice is to put your own study forward," Gaume said. "And if it's different from this, make it public and explain why. My career is as a water resources engineer. The first fix should be in efficiency. Don't add water or supply. Control the diversions and route what needs to go into the ditch. Then route the excess back into the river so the eco-system has some water."
"I did not intend to say this," he continued, "but I was ISC director, about the year 2000, New Mexico's senior Senator Pete Domenici "called me and said Arizona Sen. Kyle needs to get the AWSA passed. He asked me: 'What do you want?' I was familiar with Hooker Dam, Conner Dam and the Mangas Creek dam. I knew what the reports said, and so should you. I knew offstream storage that required pumping was out of the question economically. So, I said the people in the four counties in the southwest need money to fix their infrastructure to provide efficiency and a stable supply. Before that story was told, Bill Richardson was elected governor, and I was replaced. And I can't tell you what happened in the passage of the AWSA because I wasn't there. But somehow that request for money for southwest New Mexico got twisted into the fourth attempt to develop this junior water right and that's where you are still stuck. So, what would I do? I would request money to get your irrigation systems fixed and I would recognize that your neighbors, who are many, many, many times more numerous than you, need a hand. Provide money for the Grant County Regional Water Project and to Mr. McSherry to pay for the top ICIP (Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan) project. There are more than $40 million in ICIP water projects in the four counties. It's unfair for you to be sitting on the money with a path forward for you that looks insurmountable."
Bays said he believes the problem is that dams, which were probably never cost-effective, might never have been built. "What would Arizona look like? What would the Mesilla Valley look like without Elephant Butte? In this part of New Mexico, we run behind by about 50 years. Here is renewable water that is sustainable. Where would we be in the Southwest, if we had looked at every major dam the way you are looking at this one? They wouldn't exist, I suppose."
"I totally disagree with your premise." Gaume said he thinks Elephant Butte is cost-effective, and so is the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon Dam, which is a "cash register" with its hydro-electric power production.
Gaume continued. "You were on an almost equal footing, In 1916, the federal government looked at and wanted to put in Hooker Dam. 1916! In 1920, the federal government concluded there was no water to develop and pulled the Hooker Dam, because downstream users had claimed all the water. A later suit brought the Globe Equity Decree to provide water to the Indian tribes. The federal government sued everyone upstream. They stopped above the Virden Valley between Redrock and Virden, because there wasn't enough water to make it worth their trouble. You don't have a dam because you don't have the water, and frankly you don't have anything, including in the proposed action, that makes sense. No one has put these numbers out. If you can come up with something that refutes what I said, more power to you, instead of going on a wing and a prayer and refuse to deal with facts."
To a question from Bays, Gaume related his work history, including running large water systems.
Bays said he hears comments about needing to make irrigation more efficient. "But the return flow sends water to the eco-system. Those earthen, inefficient sorry-engineered ditches, called systems, are the lifeblood of the Gila Valley. They hydrate that valley. I've seen study after study, they are creating a lot more habitat than the river ever would. If you line the ditches or put in pipe, you are going to dry up a good part of the valley."
Shannon said she didn't think past politics should be brought into the discussion. "Senator Domenici was a very good man for New Mexico. I would like to disregard that portion, because it's not possible to prove what you said, not that I think you aren't telling the truth."
Howard Hutchinson, attending by telephone and representing the San Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District, noted that he thought the talking points were "interesting, but they are based on your opinions."
Gaume refuted that and said they used his best professional judgement and work product.
Hutchinson asked and answered how much water could be legally captured over a 10-year period. "Isn't it 140,000 acre-feet of water?" Gaume confirmed it was.
"If we had several bountiful years, we could capture 140,000 acre-feet over three years in the Gila and San Francisco combined, and store it legally within the 10 years," Hutchinson said.
Gaume said: "Yes, legally if you have sufficient flows and the money to pay for it."
Hutchinson asked how much Arizona CAP users pay. "Do they pay $160 per acre-foot?"
Gaume said he is not a student of the Arizona CAP. "The first district to take CAP water was the first district in the United State to go bankrupt. Now the farmers get a break and almost all the water and maintenance funding go to the Indian tribes. Not many farmers can farm and afford to pay the rates they are charged."
"Isn't that why under the AWSA, the users were opted out of repaying the construction costs?" Hutchinson asked.
Jeff Riley of the Phoenix Office of the Bureau of Reclamation said the farmers in Arizona pay roughly half the cost of CAP water.
Hutchinson said he had looked at Arizona farmers' costs and their pumping costs for groundwater run about $180 per acre-foot per year. "I pay $38 a month pumping costs, which is way over the $160 per acre-foot."
"Mr. Gaume, there's a lot of information on the value of water," Hutchinson said. "In my research, I have found that Santa Fe water users pay an extraordinarily high rate for water. They were wise enough to take and utilize water from the San Juan-Chama project. For a family of four, they pay about $157 a month for 11,600 gallons. That's $800 per year per acre-foot. The reason I bring it forward is in Arizona, municipalities and industries are able to pay what we would pay. I'm wondering, Mr. Gaume, do you take into consideration how much people are paying for water and how much they are willing to pay."
"It's free out of the ground," Gaume. "It's not the cost of the water, but the development of the water. I'm not sure how to relate that to the decision you're struggling to make right now."
Hutchinson said he though Gaume's assumption was that the water would be used for agriculture. "Can it be used for municipal and industrial uses? Does our current proposal foreclose future actions?" Does it foreclose future storage options?"
Gaume said if the item is not studied in the first phase of NEPA, "you will have to do another EIS (environmental impact statement)."
"Is your presentation saying we need to look at larger storage?" Hutchinson asked.
"Your proposed action doesn't make a lot of sense, but you're not paying me for my advice," Gaume said. "I believe it to be true that your right to divert, unless federal law is changed, does not go away, but the construction fund money does go away."
Hutchinson said if the entity agrees to release water that is in storage, and not all is consumed, "do we get credit for return flow?"
Gaume said: "Theoretically, yes, you can get credit, but there are a lot of hoops to run through. Until you're through the process, diversion equals consumption, and you get no credits. The process measures return flow or is calculated by an acceptable method. The Technical Committee has to approve it. As I recall, there are six Arizona ditches on the Technical Committee. The NM CAP Entity is not a member of the committee but gets to vote. Yes, you will have return flows, but are those who benefit at San Carlos Reservoir going to give you your money back? The water's going to get all used up before it gets there."
Bays said water coming out of the river "is not free. There are ditch fees. It costs $10,000 to $12,000 per acre-foot of water right. With your number of $480 an acre-foot, we could lease it for 20 years rather than buying a water right."
Runyan said if a user has adjudicated water rights in addition to maintaining ditches, "if you take $480, which seems like a high figure, piped water will make it efficient, you can get the cost down to half that at $240 an acre-foot, it's worth it."
Allen Campbell, representing the Gila Hot Spring Irrigation Association, said he chooses not to debate Gaume. "About a year ago I did a presentation pushing for a business plan. We need to put a period on these discussions. I don't think it's a good idea to try to debate a person who creates work like this. I thank him for his opinion, and especially for one of his comments, that it is best to take our possible new water from the farmers, who were the most sinned against by the Anderson adjudication and take the money and give it to the city. To take it from the rural areas and give it to the cities. We are disassembling our rural population. We should maintain our farming populations."
CAP Entity Attorney Pete Domenici Jr. thanked Gaume for his "interesting information. "What is the source of the 0.0 in the last column [of one of the graphs]?"
Gaume said there are two Arizona versus California spreadsheets the ISC creates annually. "They are now posted on their website. I think the information is damaging. I asked for the spreadsheets but was not given them. Sen. Heinrich got interested and requested them and he gave them to me. I used that information."
"Did you reconcile the current water usage with the Office of the State Engineer?" Domenici asked. "It seems like most of your information was from the ISC."
"It's not the ISC's report. It's the OSE's annual report, determining crops and sizes, whether it's fallow land," Gaume said. "The 2015 crop statistics report diversions, and then it goes to the ISC. The engineers at the ISC continue the process, taking gauge reports and they assemble the information into an annual report, given only to the regional director of the Lower Colorado River Basin. I was able to access the file, because the decree says the information is to be available at all times. I know the ISC based the state water plan on these numbers."
Domenici asked Gaume if he were saying that the Mimbres Basin has adequate water to support all its municipalities indefinitely. Gaume said he was not saying that nor was he able to say that.
"What other water sources are you willing to suggest to this board to support the municipalities of the Mimbres Basin, including Silver City, Deming and the smaller communities?" Domenici asked.
Gaume suggested the board do an in-depth study of the Mimbres Basin and he would be willing to help, although he has not done such a study.
"You are not able to say in this report that use of Gila Basin surface water to offset the mining of water in the Mimbres aquifer is infeasible," Domenici said.
"The Mimbres was not the purpose of my report," Gaume said. "The state engineer says there is a 30,000-acre-foot gap in the Mimbres Basin, but it has not measured it since 2012. A later study says the overdraft has declined from 60,000 acre-feet. I can't remember the number now, but it is based on a paucity of data. To do a comprehensive study of the Mimbres Basin would require probably about 25 percent of what has already been blown on this project."
Domenici asked if the 30,000-acre-foot gap is what is taken from the basin and what recharge goes into the basin.
"The gap is the annual net depletion," Gaume said.
Domenici returned to an earlier part of Gaume's answers. "With the indulgence of the chairman, I would like to go back to 2000 and ask Gaume: you were prepared to tell the Congressional delegation for New Mexico to give up its claim to diversions of Gila River water?"
"I said nothing about giving up the right that was in the law. What I said was that I recognized the needs and the failures to get Hooker, Conner and Mangas Creek dams," Gaume said.
Domenici pressed on. "In 2000, there was no CUFA and you knew there were powerful downstream senior rights. Didn't you understand that if New Mexico didn't get the chance to overcome the downstream users, the chance to have leverage to use the right to get the water would be gone? You didn't recommend for New Mexico to get water, but only money. That was your position as our ISC director in 2000. I want to make sure that was your position then and now you're coming to us today with the same opinion. "
"You're putting words in my mouth, and I object to that," Gaume said. "When Steve Reynolds worked with Senator Clinton Anderson to get Hooker Dam done, it was a doable project. Put a dam across the main stem of the river, store what's yours, release what isn't, release it by gravity. But it couldn't be done. There was no need for the water and no way to pay for it. The second mainstem dam failed for about the same reasons. Then Mangas Creek was tried. It was obvious that pumped storage into an offstream reservoir wasn't feasible. My objective was not based not on getting an identification of what a junior right means, which is what the CUFA does, and it's very difficult to satisfy, rather to get money for a lot of needs. The $90 million and the right to divert doesn't go away and the CUFA doesn't go away.
"At that time, in my judgement, it was not feasible for storing pumped water nor was it feasible to build a dam in the national forest," Gaume said.
Domenici noted that there is a provision that could allow this board to look at options for 11 more years.
Gaume said he did not support wasted money, and believed it would be a waste of money after 14 years of wasted money.
NM CAP Entity Executive Director Anthony Gutierrez said Gaume's report shows that the water is not free and a lot of planning that needs to be done. "This presentation was solely to store in a New Mexico Unit, but the water could also provide 800 acre-feet from wells. And we are considering underground storage. I'm not going to sit here and say it's wrong or right. It's up to the engineers to evaluate the options."
He said he was looking at the presentation the evening before. He said he likes to cook. "People think I make really good salsa. I would like to make organic salsa. If I need 100 acres of farm land, I would have to lease it or buy it. I can't afford to buy it with water rights, but the cheapest land has no water rights. If I had to purchase water rights, I can't afford it. But I can afford $48,000. If I took a loan for $1 million for the land, I could pay it off at about $75,000 a year. I would have to disagree that the water has no value. I would save $30,000 by paying for AWSA water. That water is the most valuable thing we have. It would be feasible for me to purchase AWSA water to grow the products to make salsa."
Bays said he had one final question for Gaume. "Are you employed now? Did anyone help pay you for these presentations?"
"I do this as a volunteer. I pay my own expenses," Gaume said. "I had a consulting business through 2012."
"I'm asking about anyone paying you from Grant County," Bays clarified.
"Santa Fe, UNM, NMSU, OSE, ISC, Bernalillo County Water Authority, yes, but I was paid for nothing in Grant County," Gaume said.
[Editor's Note: He later that day sent an apology email to members and others, including this editor, saying: "My memory was too slow when Ty Bays questioned me in the CAP Entity meeting if I had ever been hired by a local entity. In error, I said no." He went on to say he had been paid about $17,400 by the Gila Conservation Coalition, but had paid $5,000 each to two contractors, paid for Powersim system software and kept $5,000.]
On a different subject, Gaume said he wrote a letter to the ISC that disputes many of the myths he continues to hear, including during this meeting.
Shannon said: "To the best of our ability, we are trying to look to the future. We hope to gain the whole 14,000 acre-feet of water."
The next article will start with public comment and progress into agenda items, including additional amendments to the proposed action.