Lower Rio Grande Water Rights Adjudication Process
The State of New Mexico is in the process of adjudicating the rights to use the surface waters and groundwaters of the Lower Rio Grande stream system.
The adjudication of water rights began in the early 2000s, after the State Engineer performed a hydrographic survey of the water uses of the Lower Rio Grande stream system. Information on hydrographic surveys can be found here.
The water rights that were identified by the hydrographic survey of the Lower Rio Grande stream system are organized into subfiles. The water rights in a subfile consist of a water claim or collection of water claims within a specific area associated with the same owner which may be one party or multiple parties. Water rights are adjudicated by subfile.
While the process and forms for the adjudication have evolved since the start of the adjudication, the substance remains the same. The State prepares offers of judgment for subfiles whose water rights have not yet been adjudicated. An offer of judgment is a proposed agreement on what the State believes are the water rights for a subfile based on the findings of the hydrographic survey. Offers of judgment in the Lower Rio Grande stream system adjudication are currently called Offers of Judgment and Stipulated Subfile Orders.
The State serves an offer packet on parties who may have a claim to water rights (water rights claimants) in the adjudication. Offer packets include:
1) a cover letter,
2) Offer of Judgment and Stipulated Subfile Order,
3) a Form C Objection to Offer of Judgment,
4) a Notice to Water Rights Claimants Receiving an Offer of Judgment/Stipulated Subfile Order from the State (link)
6) a copy of the Amended Complaint (this is the court filing which initiated the Lower Rio Grande stream system adjudication),
7) a Summons,
8) a self-addressed envelope, and
9) other informational forms appropriate to the particular subfile.
If a claimant was sent an offer packet in another subfile previously, the claimant’s offer packet will include a Notice of Adjudication of Additional Water Rights instead of a Summons.
The Court has established procedures that claimants and the State must follow in this legal proceeding. These procedures are described in the Court’s Seventh Amended Procedural Order.
The Court requires claimants to respond to the State’s Offer of Judgment and Stipulated Subfile Order within 45 days of receipt, by either
a) signing and returning the Offer of Judgment and Stipulated Subfile Order if the claimant agrees with the entire description of the water rights in the offer,
b) filling out the Form C Objection and returning it to the State if the claimant objects to any part of the water right described in the Offer of Judgment and Stipulated Subfile Order.
If the claimant does not respond within the 45 days, the State is allowed to obtain a court order or judgment by default which adjudicates the water rights exactly as they are described in the Offer of Judgment and Stipulated Subfile Order.
If the claimant signed and returned the Offer of Judgment and Stipulated Subfile Order, the State will sign it and file it with the court. The Court will return a court endorsed copy to the State and the State will send a copy to the claimant. The claimant should keep this court order with their property records.
If the claimant filled out and returned the Form C Objection, the State will investigate the claimant’s objection. If there is merit to the claimant’s objection, the State will revise the Offer of Judgment and Stipulated Subfile Order to include the claimant’s objection and send the revised Offer of Judgment and Stipulated Subfile Order to the claimant for the claimant’s signature. Once the claimant signs and returns the revised Offer of Judgment and Stipulated Subfile Order, the process will be the same as if the claimant signed the original Offer of Judgment and Stipulated Subfile Order.
If the State does not agree with the claimant’s objection and the State and the claimant are unable to come to an agreement, the matter is referred to court-ordered mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful and the State and the claimant are still in disagreement over the description of the water rights, the matter is referred to trial where the court will decide what the water rights are and issue an order reflecting its decision.
After a subfile order is entered for every subfile in the adjudication, the case will proceed to Inter Se. In an inter se proceeding each water right claimant is provided with the opportunity to challenge the water rights of any other claimant.
The Court will issue a final decree at the completion of the adjudication.
The website for the Lower Rio Grande Water Rights Adjudication can be found at the New Mexico Courts’ webpage (https://lrgadjudication.nmcourts.gov.).
Below are the monthly reports issued by the court on the Lower Rio Grande stream system adjudication and the Court’s Seventh Amended Procedural Order for the Adjudication. The Court’s Seventh Amended Procedural Order for the Adjudication is the court’s current procedural order for the adjudication. Previous court procedural orders are also available below.
IF YOU RECEIVE AN OFFER PACKET, you are REQUIRED to follow the Court’s procedures for responding to the offer.
CHANGE OF ADDRESS OR TELEPHONE NUMBER
CHANGE OF OWNERSHIP
To ensure receipt of court documents related to the adjudication of water rights, individuals who claim water rights in the Lower Rio Grande adjudication must notify the Court and the State of New Mexico of any changes in their address, telephone number or ownership of the water rights.
If you have a change of address or telephone number, Form D Notice of Change of Address or Telephone Number is the form you fill out and file with the Court and mail a copy to the Office of the State Engineer. Form D can be found here or at the New Mexico Courts website, Lower Rio Grande Adjudication webpage, Court Forms.
If you acquire water rights from another party, Form E, Notice of Transfer of Interest is the form you fill out and mail to the Office of the State Engineer. Form E can be found here (link) or at the New Mexico Courts website, Lower Rio Grande Adjudication webpage, Court Forms.
If you have any questions about the adjudication or your waters rights, you may call or visit the Lower Rio Grande hydrographic survey team at the below office and telephone number:
NM Office of the State Engineer
Lower Rio Grande Adjudication
1680 Hickory Loop, Suite J
Las Cruces, NM 88005
Telephone Number 575-524-6330
If you have questions about the offer packet, you may call the attorney identified in the letter included in the offer packet at the number identified in the letter.
There is an Ombudsman for the adjudication. If you would prefer to speak with the Ombudsman or have general questions about water rights or adjudication process, you may contact the Ombudsman at:
Stephanie Russo Baca, Ombudsman and Staff Attorney
The Utton Transboundary Resources Center
UNM School of Law
1117 Stanford Dr. NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106
State v. EBID
(Lower Rio Grande Adjudication)
Court Procedural Orders
11/16/2008: Court Memorandum Oct. 16, 2008
08/15/2008: 5th Amended Order Aug. 15, 2008
08/15/2008: Forms A-C August 15, 2008