New Mexico residents oppose company’s push to use more water

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LOS LUNAS, N.M. — A group of Valencia County residents is again opposing a bottling company that is asking the Los Lunas Village Council for the ability to use more water.

The grassroots group calls itself the Valencia Water Watchers. For years, members have been opposing Niagara Bottling, a company based in California that produces water and other drinks for other companies.

The agenda for Thursday night’s council meeting shows Niagara Bottling wants to expand in Valencia County and is asking the council to approve an increase in the amount of water it’s allowed to use, an amount water rights advocates say totals 1.6 million more gallons per year than it’s using now.

“To me it is absurd and greedy,” Valencia Water Watchers member Deirdra Velasquez said.

The group says here in the desert, amid a so-called mega drought and as the Rio Grande is experiencing problems, the company should not be allowed to use New Mexico resources in this way.

“It is not right for corporations like Niagara to come into our small community and demand that they have this increase in water,” Velasquez said.

They say that water, which would come from the area’s aquifer, should go to New Mexicans – to farmers and, of course, to everyone who drinks it.

“This is not the Los Lunas tea cup that they’re sipping out of. This is the Albuquerque basin,” Valencia Water Watchers member Pamela McKenzie said. “Potentially millions of people will be affected by a handful – five men – sitting here deciding the fate.”

The topic was tabled at Thursday night’s meeting.

Water advocates in the region say people all across central New Mexico should be worried.

“Why would we want to export water when we are already overpromised on our water,” said Bob Wessely with Middle Rio Grande Water Advocates. “It doesn’t sound like a good idea.”

Advocates say more uses like what the company is calling for would impact not just Valencia County, but any person using water in the Albuquerque metro.

“We’re in a heap of trouble already. Why build on it?” Wessely said.

The Valencia Water Watchers say Niagara Bottling withdrew a similar request last year after they opposed it.

The company did not respond Thursday to KOB 4’s request for comment.