Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System

The Bureau of Reclamation is constructing a water system in the Pojoaque Valley that will bring clean drinking water to approximately 10,000 people and ensure a reliable water supply for residents of the Pueblos of Pojoaque, Nambé, San Ildefonso and Tesuque, as well as some residents of Santa Fe County. The Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System will divert water from the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico. The system will include diversion and water treatment facilities on the Pueblo de San Ildefonso, along with storage tanks, pump stations, and transmission and distribution pipelines to supply up to 4,000 acre-feet (about 1.3 billion gallons) of drinking water annually.

Aerial photo showing Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System collector well construction near the Rio Grande on San Ildefonso Pueblo.
Aerial photo showing Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System collector well construction near the Rio Grande on San Ildefonso Pueblo. Reclamation photo

Background

The Settlement Act resolves litigation issues initiated in the 1960s, settles water-rights claims of four New Mexico Pueblos: San Ildefonso, Nambé, Tesuque, & Pojoaque. The Settlement has four main elements:

  1. Construction of a regional water system capable of diverting, treating and delivering 2,500-acre feet per year of Rio Grande water to the four Pueblos and up to 1,500-afy to Santa Fe County.
  2. Acquisition of necessary water rights.
  3. Establishment of an Aamodt Settlement Pueblos' Fund.
  4. Waiver and release of the Pueblos' water-rights claims

The centerpiece of the Settlement Act is construction of the Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System. The Settlement Act provides that the Secretary "shall plan, design, and construct" the PBRWS "in accordance with the Engineering Report." Section 611(a)(1). The Settlement Act defines the Engineering Report as "the report entitled 'Pojoaque Regional Water System Engineering Report' dated September 2008 and any amendments thereto…." Section 602(9).1 The purpose of Reclamation's action is to reliably provide a firm, safe supply of treated drinking water for distribution in the Pojoaque Basin, in compliance with the Settlement Act. The need for Reclamation's action is to reduce reliance on groundwater in the Pojoaque Basin and to allow the Settlement Pueblos to receive a portion of the water provided under the Settlement Act.

The Settlement Act also allowed for further negotiations regarding cost-share if the original authorized funding for the PBRWS was insufficient. Having determined that construction of the PBRWS would require funds in excess of the amount authorized in the Settlement Act, pursuant to Section 611(g), the Secretary initiated negotiations with the parties to the Cost-Sharing and System Integration Agreement for an agreement regarding additional federal and non-Federal contributions. On September 17, 2019, the Pueblos of Nambé, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque; the United States; the State of New Mexico; Santa Fe County; and the City of Santa Fe entered into an agreement pursuant to Section 611(g) ("611(g) Agreement"), which provides that Reclamation prepare an amended Engineering Report based on and consistent with the consensus design concept, including cost-saving measures, agreed upon by the parties to the 611(g) Agreement for construction of the PBRWS ("Consensus Design Concept"). The 611(g) Agreement provides that the amended Engineering Report amends, supersedes, and replaces the Engineering Report referenced in the Settlement Act.

While the amended Engineering Report is consistent with the Act and the 611(g) Agreement, the Engineering Report is not intended to replace the final design drawings, specifications, and basis of design reports for the PBRWS. Figures and numbers in the Engineering Report may potentially change as designs are confirmed and final design drawings, specifications, basis of design reports, and operations, maintenance, and repair (OM&R) reports, listed as reference documents to the report, will have the latest and most accurate information. Any such changes will comply with the Consensus Design Concept as set forth in the 611(g) Agreement. The procedure used to develop the amended Engineering Report was to combine essential information relating to the Consensus Design Concept from the CDM Smith 90% design-build basis of design report and the Reclamation Technical Service Center 60% design-bid-build basis of design report. The amended Engineering Report was completed and is dated December 13, 2019.

The Settlement Act provides that the PBRWS "shall be determined to be substantially completed if the infrastructure has been constructed capable of—(A) diverting, treating, transmitting, and distributing a supply of 2,500 acre-feet of water to the Pueblos; and (B) diverting, treating, and transmitting the quantity of water specified in the amended Engineering Report to the County Distribution System." Section 624(e)(1). The 611(g) Agreement provides the following amended definition of substantial completion: "If Reclamation (i) issues a Notice To Proceed authorizing the start of Phase 1 (as described in Exhibit A [Consensus Design Concept]) construction by December 31, 2019, and subsequently commences construction of the Project; (ii) thereafter diligently proceeds to construct the Project in accordance with this Agreement and Exhibits A and B [the Engineering Report], on a schedule for completion by 2028 as agreed pursuant to subsection V(C); (iii) thereby expends all of the available Federal and non-Federal funding provided for in the Settlement Act and Section IV of this Agreement to construct the Project, as set forth in Exhibits A and B; and (iv) despite diligent efforts cannot fully complete the Project as set forth in Exhibits A and B due solely to the lack of authorized funding, the Project shall satisfy the Settlement Act's requirement of substantial completion

The Bureau of Reclamation is constructing a water system in the Pojoaque Valley that will bring clean drinking water to approximately 10,000 people and ensure a reliable water supply for residents of the Pueblos of Pojoaque, Nambé, San Ildefonso and Tesuque, as well as some residents of Santa Fe County. The Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System will divert water from the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico. The system will include diversion and water treatment facilities on the Pueblo de San Ildefonso, along with storage tanks, pump stations, and transmission and distribution pipelines to supply up to 4,000 acre-feet (about 1.3 billion gallons) of drinking water annually.

Title VI of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-291), known as the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act , directed the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Commissioner of Reclamation, to plan, design, and construct a regional water system in accordance with the Settlement Agreement Link is to a PDF file, which is a negotiated agreement among the parties on how to resolve water rights claims in the Pojoaque Basin.

In 2019, the Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System Settlement Parties reached an important milestone when they signed an agreement pursuant to section 611(g) of the Act to address a project funding shortfall, including cost-saving measures, additional non-federal contributions, and a revised definition of substantial completion. A final environmental impact statement was published in 2018 to assess the impacts on the human environment from the project. A Record of Decision was signed by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science in 2019, selecting the preferred alternative and authorizing construction contingent on funding availability.

Construction began in the Spring of 2020 at the project intake from the Rio Grande on the Pueblo of San Ildefonso , while design work continues for the second phase of the project, including the Pueblos of Nambé, Tesuque, and Pojoaque.

Portions of the RWS will be brought into operation as they are constructed. Reclamation will operate and maintain the RWS until construction is substantially complete. After construction is complete, title to all RWS facilities and land interests will be transferred to the Settlement Pueblos, Santa Fe County, or the Regional Water Authority, in accordance with Section 611(h) of the Settlement Act. Upon title transfer, these entities will be responsible for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the RWS.

Information on options for domestic wells owners in the Pojoaque Basin can be found on Santa Fe County's website: https://www.santafecountynm.gov/public_works/aamodt.

Litigation concerning claims to the scarce water resources of the Pojoaque Basin began in 1966, in the case State of New Mexico ex rel. State Engineer v. Aamodt (No. 66cv6639 MV/LCS [District of New Mexico], Aamodt adjudication). The purpose of the litigation was to determine the nature and extent of the claims to water rights in the Pojoaque Basin. In August 2000, the federal court ordered confidential mediation over settlement of the Pueblo claims. In May 2006, the non-federal parties to the case signed the Settlement Agreement; these parties were the Pueblo de San Ildefonso, Pueblo of Nambé, Pueblo of Pojoaque, and Pueblo of Tesuque (Settlement Pueblos); the City of Santa Fe; Santa Fe County; the State of New Mexico; and other individual defendants. This Settlement Agreement allows for up to 4,000 afy of water to be diverted from the Rio Grande, and it contemplates constructing the Regional Water System; 2,500 afy of water was allocated to the four Settlement Pueblos, and up to 1,500 afy was allocated to Santa Fe County.

The technical details for the RWS described in the Settlement Agreement were set out in a 2008 engineering report prepared by Hurlbut, Kersich, and McCullough Engineering, Inc. (HKM 2008), recently amended by Reclamation as part of the 611(g) Agreement. In 2010, Congress passed the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act (P.L. 111-291, 124 Stat. 3064) (Settlement Act), which authorized the U.S., through the Secretary of the Interior, to sign the Settlement Agreement, as conformed to the Settlement Act, and directed Reclamation to plan, design, and construct an regional water system.

The Settlement Agreement was conformed to the Settlement Act in 2012 and was signed by the Settlement Pueblos, Santa Fe County, the City of Santa Fe, the State of New Mexico, and the Secretary of the Interior on March 14, 2013.

On July 9, 2018, pursuant to section 611(g) of the Settlement Act, the United States officially notified the Settlement parties in writing that a funding gap exists and that it was formally initiating "negotiations with the parties … for an agreement regarding non-Federal contributions to ensure that the project can be completed." In September 2019, the Settlement Parties signed the 611(g) Agreement to address the project funding shortfall, including cost-saving measures, additional contributions, a revised definition of substantial completion, and an extension of time from 2024 to 2028 to complete the project. These agreements are contingent upon Congress amending the Settlement Act and ratifying the 611(g) Agreement. As part of that agreement, Reclamation issued a notice to proceed with limited construction at the intake, which is expected to begin in the spring of 2020.

Purpose and Need

The purpose of Reclamation's action is to reliably provide a firm, safe supply of treated drinking water for distribution in the Pojoaque Basin, in compliance with the Settlement Act.

The need for Reclamation's action is to reduce reliance on groundwater in the Pojoaque Basin and to allow the Settlement Pueblos to receive a portion of the water provided under the Settlement Act. The Settlement Act also provides funding to the Settlement Pueblos for certain water-related infrastructure improvements, if requested. This funding can be requested prior to substantial completion of the RWS and used for water-related improvements that would be more cost-effective when implemented in conjunction with RWS construction, if approved by the Secretary of the Interior (Settlement Act section 615[d][7][A][ii]).

Other Objectives of the Project

The Settlement Pueblos' and Santa Fe County's specific objectives of the project are as follows:

  • Use water secured under the Settlement Act to meet current and anticipated future demand in the Pojoaque Basin
  • Provide adequate water volume and pressure for fire protection
  • Reduce the impacts of groundwater pumping to provide for recharging the aquifer

Decisions Made

The Environmental Impact Statement complies with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) by supporting federal decisions related to the RWS project. Both Reclamation and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs are making decisions based on the analyses in the EIS.  Specifically, the Secretary of the Interior has selected the preferred alternative in the EIS and will construct and temporarily operate a water treatment and distribution system for the Pojoaque Basin, and then transfer the facilities to a newly created Regional Water Authority, Santa Fe County, and the Settlement Pueblos, in accordance with the Settlement Agreement and the Settlement Act.

The BIA, in consultation with the Settlement Pueblos, will decide whether to issue right-of-way (ROW) easements and permits on tribal lands for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the RWS.  According to the Settlement Act (Section 611[c][1]) and Cost Sharing and System Integration Agreement (Section 2.3), Pueblos will grant easements and ROWs as necessary for the construction of the RWS at no cost.

Additional federal agencies will use the EIS for their decisions as part of permitting processes, including those under the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other applicable federal laws.

Cooperating Agencies

Reclamation coordinated with the following entities that accepted cooperating agency status throughout the preparation of the EIS:

What is the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act?
Title VI of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, also known as the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act, approves the settlement of the water rights claims of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso, Pueblo of Nambé, Pueblo of Pojoaque, and Pueblo of Tesuque (Settlement Pueblos); City of Santa Fe; Santa Fe County; and other water rights holders within the Pojoaque Basin. The Act also authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Commissioner of Reclamation, to plan, design, and construct a regional water system in the Pojoaque Basin. Additionally, the Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to acquire water rights on behalf of the four Pueblos and establishes the Aamodt Settlement Pueblos' Fund.
What is the history of the tribal water rights claims?
In 1966, the New Mexico State Engineer brought suit against all water right claimants in the Pojoaque River Basin to determine the nature and extent of the claimants' water rights in a case entitled State of New Mexico ex re. State Engineer v. Aamodt, No. 66cv6639 MV/LCS (D.N.M.) (the Aamodt case). Forty years later, an initial Settlement Agreement was developed in May 2006, which was later conformed to the terms of the Settlement Act in April 2012. An integral and critical component of the Settlement Agreement is the development of a regional water system.
Why is a Regional Water System included in the Settlement Agreement?
The Regional Water System is included in the settlement in exchange for the Pueblos agreeing to reduce their claims to water within the basin and to limit their priority calls against existing non-Pueblo water users. By bringing up to 4,000 acre-feet per year into the basin, the Regional Water System has made settlement possible by providing additional water to be allocated among users.
Who will pay for the Regional Water System?
The Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act authorized $106.4 million in federal money (October 2006 dollars) to be spent on the Regional Water System. In addition, the State of New Mexico will contribute $49.5 million (October 2006 dollars) from state appropriations, and the County of Santa Fe will contribute $21.4 million (October 2006 dollars).
Under the 611(g) Agreement, contributions from all three parties would increase, contingent on Congress authorizing an increase in the Federal contribution. Update this section to include the passage of the FY21 Omnibus Bill that increased the funding amount to $406M and extended the project completion date to 2028.
Who will administer the Regional Water System?
A Regional Water Authority has been formed to operate and maintain the Regional Water System after construction is completed. The Regional Water Authority will have a board made up of representatives of the Settlement Pueblos (Nambé, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque) and Santa Fe County.
Where does the water come from?
The water for the Regional Water System (enough to provide up to 4,000 acre-feet of consumptive use annually) comes from the Rio Grande. The Pueblos have water rights for approximately 2,500 acre-feet of water for annual consumptive use (1,079 acre-feet of San Juan-Chama Project water; 1,141 acre-feet of water acquired by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, from Santa Fe County; and 302 acre-feet of Nambé reserved water rights). Santa Fe County has been allocated sufficient capacity in the Regional Water System for up to 1,500 acre-feet of water for annual consumptive use. Santa Fe County is providing this water from water rights it owns to supply non-Pueblo RWS users. These water rights include 611 acre-feet of Top of the World water rights and up to 889 acre-feet of water rights transferred to the County from existing groundwater wells as well owners elect to hook up to the RWS, or from other sources, including additional upstream water rights, San Juan-Chama project water, or in-basin transfers from non-domestic water rights.
How will the water get to the Pueblos and the County residents?
A water collection facility on lands belonging to the Pueblo de San Ildefonso will take water out of the Rio Grande and send it to a water treatment plant to be constructed as part of the project. After being treated to meet Safe Drinking Water Act standards, the water will then flow through a transmission and distribution system consisting of pipelines, pumping plants, short-term storage tanks, and other necessary facilities to Pueblo members and other County residents and businesses in the Pojoaque Basin.
Can the County serve residents outside of the Pojoaque Basin?
The New Mexico Office of the State Engineer has issued a permit authorizing interim uses anywhere within the County Water Utility service area. This satisfied the requirement of Section 614(d)(2) of the Settlement Act. While the County may decide to use RWS water for interim uses outside the basin and has asked that the project be designed not to exclude the possibility, no specific plans for such use have been proposed.
Do I have to give up my well when the system is built?
Information on options for domestic wells owners in the Pojoaque Basin can be found on Santa Fe County's website: https://www.santafecountynm.gov/public_works/aamodt.
How will the Settlement Agreement affect me?
Reclamation is not involved in the settling of water rights. For information on water rights under the Settlement Agreement, visit the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer . Information on options for domestic wells owners in the Pojoaque Basin can be found on Santa Fe County's website: https://www.santafecountynm.gov/public_works/aamodt.
When will the Regional Water System be completed?
Under the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act, the Regional Water System must be substantially completed by June 30, 2024. However, under the recently negotiated 611(g) Agreement, Congress amended the Settlement Act to extend the completion date to June 30, 2028.

While most of the pre-construction surveying has been completed, if your property is within the RWS project boundaries and further data collection is needed, Reclamation may contact you in order to respectfully request permission to enter your property for the purpose of performing surveys. If needed, the survey visits would be brief, infrequent, and will only involve non-ground disturbing survey activities.

Representatives from Reclamation and government contractors may enter your property, only with your permission, to perform surveys. The representatives will carry appropriate identification and will show you that identification on request. You will be contacted by a Reclamation representative to obtain your written permission prior to anyone entering your property to perform this work.

For more information, call:
Ms. Michele Gallagher
Realty Specialist
(505) 462-3652 or email magallagher@usbr.gov.
The success of this project depends on the cooperation and support of landowners like you. Thank you for your consideration.

Information on options for domestic wells owners in the Pojoaque Basin can be found on Santa Fe County's website: https://www.santafecountynm.gov/public_works/aamodt.

Legislation and Agreeents

Project Environmental Impact Statement & other Reports

Public reports, agreements, and other documents produced as part of the Aamodt Settlement and Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System planning, design, and construction process will be added here as they are completed.

Note: Very large files may not be able to be previewed using the links below. However, they can still be downloaded by following the links.

Record of Decision
(September 2019)

Final EIS - Full Volumes
(Large File Size)

Miscellaneous Changes Environmental Assessment

Printed copies of the Draft and Final EISs can be viewed at the following locations:

  • Reclamation's Albuquerque Area Office
  • Santa Fe County Pojoaque Satellite Office, 5 West Gutierrez, Suite 9, in the Pojoaque Pueblo Plaza
  • Santa Fe Public Library, 145 Washington Avenue
  • New Mexico State Library, 1209 Camino Carlos Rey, Santa Fe
  • Santa Fe Community College Library, 6401 Richards Avenue in
    Santa Fe
  • Natural Resources Library, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Main Interior Building, Washington, DC

Other Project Reports

Contact Us

Questions? Please feel free to get in touch using the information below.

Jennifer Walters, Project Manager
Bureau of Reclamation, Albuquerque Area Office
555 Broadway NE, ALB-800
Albuquerque, NM 87102
(505) 462-3615
jwalters@usbr.gov

Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to contact the above individual during normal business hours. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Leave a message or question and you will receive a reply during normal business hours.

Last Updated: 5/18/22