Editor’s note: The amount of water Niagara Bottling Company is requesting has increased from 735 AFY to 782 AFY in the finalized village of Los Lunas council meeting agenda for Dec. 7. The amount requested has been updated in the article below to reflect the change. Additional information obtained Dec. 4  has also been added.


LOS LUNAS — The Los Lunas Village Council will be considering amending its agreement with Niagara Bottling Company on Thursday to increase the amount of water the company is allowed to pump from village wells.

According to the council meeting agenda, “Niagara has requested to expand its plant and is requesting the village to agree to provide up to 782 acre feet per year of water to them.” This amounts to more than 254 million gallons per year.

Currently, Niagara is permitted by the village to pump 285 acre feet of water per year, which is almost 93 million gallons per year. The company has been seeking to expand its production capabilities since 2021.

Background

The original February 2017 agreement between the village and Niagara required the company to secure water rights for its pumping needs and transfer them into the village’s wells. Niagara Bottling transferred rights it leased from PNM into the wells at that time, and in order to increase its capacity under the amended agreement, will again transfer in water rights leased from PNM through 2028.

In 2022, Niagara asked the village to allow it to take more than double the company’s water intake to allow them 700 AFY.

Los Lunas’ well No. 7, installed a few years ago, is used by both Niagara and the entirety of the Los Morros Business Park, which sits northwest of N.M. 6 and Interstate 25.

The water Niagara uses is pumped from a well belonging to the village, which pulls water from an aquifer stretching from Socorro to Santa Fe that serves all of Valencia County and surrounding areas.

According to previous News-Bulletin reporting, when the proposed agreement with Niagara was presented to the village at the end of June 2022, a group of more than 75 protesters showed up in opposition to the agreement.

At a July 2022 council meeting, the agreement was indefinitely tabled at the request of village public works director Michael Jaramillo and village attorney Larry Guggino to allow more time for the agreement to be looked over by the village’s water consultants.

The matter has since remained dormant until it appeared on this week’s council agenda.

Current request

The agenda states Niagara has secured the additional water rights needed to acquire a new limit of 782 AFY through a lease with PNM for water rights that lasts until Feb. 28, 2028.

Last year, Valencia Water Watchers, a local non-partisan group, started an online petition that urged citizens to contact Los Lunas Mayor Charles Griego and village councilors to vote against the agreement that would allow the extra water usage. The petition to say “No to Niagara” has since garnered more than 3,000 signatures.

The meeting agenda says the request from Niagara Bottling was analyzed to see how their expansion would impact the village water and wastewater system.

The News-Bulletin reached out to village officials for comment on the results of the analysis, but did not get a response.

At the Nov. 16 village council meeting, consultants from Molzen Corbin, Los Lunas’ engineering and architecture firm, presented a proposed updated water system master plan for the village.

While Niagara Bottling was not mentioned specifically in the presentation, consultants from Molzen Corbin said new wells would be needed within the next 10 years or earlier to keep up with anticipated residential and industrial growth.

“In particular, there’s been a shift in growth from mostly residential customers to more industrial style use thus a need for an update,” said Casey Cook, a Molzen Corbin consultant.

A press release from VWW stated,“Now that a draft of the water system management plan is available, Niagara is bringing their request to the Village of Los Lunas Council for a fourth time. This time, they are almost tripling their request for up to 782 AFY.”

According to the proposed water system master plan documentation, Molzen Corbin tasked Lee Wilson and Associates to update their 1994 report “Hydrologic Conditions Affecting Los Lunas Water Supply”.

“The update is not to include new data collection or analyses,” The document noted. “Our approach therefore has been to summarize new information from significant published documents and our own files in order to support siting and conceptual design of new large-capacity municipal wells.”

VWW expressed concern that the data is not sufficient because it is outdated, as the document further states, “The tables (e.g., hundreds of well records) are not up to date.”

According to the proposed water system master plan document, the 1994 report utilized a map of water table elevations as of 1960-1961 and, “We have found no water table map of sufficient quality to replace the map provided in the prior (1994) report.”

“Recycling a 1994 report with no new data or analysis is unprofessional and inadequate,” wrote VWW in an emailed statement. “They need reliable, contemporary, science-based data, not a recycled 30-year old report with 60-year old data.”

The amended agreement will be discussed during a public hearing and will be considered by the council at this week’s meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 7, at village hall, 660 Main St.

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Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.