Abeyta plan detrimental to Taos Valley natural water system

By Sage Kohen
Posted 1/10/20

Beginning in 2018, a group of concerned community members issued a series of public statements regarding the Abeyta Settlement Implementation Plan. The purpose was to foster public awareness and raise legitimate concerns about potential negative cultural and environmental impacts of the implementation plan.

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Abeyta plan detrimental to Taos Valley natural water system

Posted

Beginning in 2018, a group of concerned community members issued a series of public statements regarding the Abeyta Settlement Implementation Plan. The purpose was to foster public awareness and raise legitimate concerns about potential negative cultural and environmental impacts of the implementation plan.

Simply put, the Abeyta Settlement implementation promotes an unprecedented increase in deep aquifer water extraction based on a 1950s mechanistic worldview of endless growth for profit. Up to 133 percent of water withdrawn from supply wells must be returned (offset) to the Río Grande under settlement plans, representing a drastic increase in deep aquifer extraction. The settlement implementation seeks to artificially engineer an intact Taos Valley watershed to produce more water to stimulate more development, and plans to send a huge portion of deep aquifer water downstream via five mitigation wells connected to tributary streams and acequias through a series of pipelines and potential water treatment stations.

Imagine human-engineered, push-button "springs" controlled by a water master from Santa Fe tapping the deep aquifer, treating such hard water with chemicals, and then releasing it through pipelines to send downstream with soft surface water.

Is this the future we agreed to for a watershed that has been sustained by deep-rooted tradition and vibrant, time-tested natural systems?

Some of us decided to take a number of risks to raise awareness regarding Abeyta Settlement Implementation Plans. Media censorship and a giant slap suit ensued against Guardians of Taos Water (and 50 John Does), most of whom are small farmers and caring stewards of the valley struggling to make ends meet like most locals.

It's challenging standing up to forces that seem so insulated, all-powerful and set in their ways - forces determined to extract every bit of life essence from this earth without regard for the long-term viability of natural systems and those that will inherit them in an uncertain future of climate disruption.

Our world is being decimated by faulty value systems that seek to control, commodify and divide every aspect of life (from the atom to the human mind), thus undermining the basic structural integrity of life, even turning life against itself with nuclear fission.

Challenging such forces often leads to exhaustion, heartache and trauma, especially when such forces simply censor and bulldoze over those dedicated to ensuring a healthier future for those most at risk, including the natural systems that sustain us.

I do not claim to know the answers to the challenges we face; but, frankly, in confronting some of the greatest challenges of our times, I became seriously traumatized.

At Occupy Wall Street, we stood in the faces of towering economic giants looting the collective inheritance and pleaded for a more just economic and social system. The state-sponsored violence inflicted on us broke my heart. Walking through Navajo Nation with Diné youth, and witnessing the booming fracking and coal industry contaminating everything, broke my heart. Visiting the place where the uranium for Hiroshima and Nagasaki was mined, and listening to the locals speak of the last remaining clean water source, broke my heart. Being disregarded and fired on with weaponry and water cannons at Standing Rock broke my heart. Being repeatedly attacked in Taos for defending the inherent rights of nature broke my heart - even more deeply because this was the only place I felt safe and whole in the world.

Our lives depend on the health of our enveloping ecosystems, so why have we not done more to protect and invigorate our life-support systems?

If corporations are guaranteed certain protections under the law (including protections that allow for near wholesale destruction of ecosystems), why are protective rights not extended to natural systems, such as a watershed that millions rely on?

Why are we trying to artificially engineer a provably successful hydrological system that's been perfected over eons, mixing surface water with deep aquifer water via mitigation wells?

How sustainable is this new mitigation well "offset" model being proposed through the Abeyta Settlement, which is dependent on computer-generated models yet to be tested?

What are the long-term consequences of 14 to 18 deep aquifer wells coming online?

I think all can agree that healthy streams, rivers and acequias (even aquifers and watersheds) are the lifeblood of community.

Sage Kohen lives in Taos.

Editor's note: The Abeyta Settlement Implementation Plan is part of the Taos Pueblo Indian Water Rights Settlement Act of 2010. It was a settlement in the decades-old water rights case that sought to finalize Taos Pueblo and acequia water rights in the Taos Valley. Find earlier stories, including about GOT Water, at https://www.taosnews.com/abeyta-settlement/.

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