Agua Fria Village

Agua Fria Village

State seeks to apply water standards to Santa Fe River

August Community Update:

15.  State seeks to apply water standards to Santa Fe River:

The New Mexico Environment Department wants to beef up water-quality standards for the Santa Fe River, now that the City of Santa Fe plans to let a little reservoir water flow down it each year.  This is particularly important for Agua Fria now that the springs San Isidro Crossing are intermittently flowing.  Submit comments to: Tim Michael at the New Mexico Environment Department, Surface Water Quality Bureau, P.O. Box 5469, Santa Fe, N.M. 87502. You can call him at 505-476-3799 or email him at

Our Response:

Agua Fria Village Association

2073 Camino Samuel Montoya

Santa Fe, NM 87507


Tim Michael                                                                                         September 20, 2012

New Mexico Environment Department

P.O. Box 5469

Santa Fe, N.M. 87502-5469


Dear Ms. Michael:


The Agua Fria Village Association (AFVA), on behalf of the Agua Fria Village Traditional Historic Community (THC), and other county residents in our southwest sector of Santa Fe, want to submit comments on the water quality of the Santa Fe River for the area from Puentes Blanca (the old white bridge that the acequia went under Agua Fria Street at Frenchy’s Field---or in today’s landmark Camino Carlos Rael) to the river crossing at San Felipe Road or more properly the El Camino Real crossing of the Santa Fe River (or present day State Road 599 bridge); these are our traditional boundaries of the Village, and a little larger than the THC legal boundaries---but we still have members in these areas. 


There is no documented reason for why “Agua Fria” (cold water) was named as it was, but local residents speculate that it is from the weary traveler splashing their face with the cold water of the Santa Fe River, the first mountain stream they would have encountered on their journey from the south.


Agua Fria, then known as Pueblo Quemado, was a place of modern settlement since circa 1640, and in the year, 1776 Fray Francisco Atanacio Dominguez gave a census count to his superiors listing Agua Fria with 57 families and 297 persons, all engaged in farming.  After the devastating flood of 1881 took out the Agua Fria Ditch diversion by the State Land Office (the little acequia is stone-lined in front of the N.M. Supreme Court Building); three diversions were made in the Santa Fe River by the Agua Fria residents in the area of the present day Siler Road bridge.  These diversions served six acequias on the southern side of the Santa Fe River and flowed with Reservoir water until 1945.  The northern acequia which went to the present day Santa Fe Community Farm was cut off in the 1930’s when the New Mexico Produce Company (by the present day Casa Solana Shopping Center) lost its case against the New Mexico Power and Light Company in 1938 in front of the N.M. Supreme Court. 


The 1914 State Engineer’s Hydrographic Survey shows 244 acres of irrigated farmland which we calculated using 8 acre feet of water a year or 1,952 acre feet to raise table crops.  In addition to this, was another 700 acres of pasture land using 2 acre feet of water a year or 1,400 acre feet; for a grand total of 3,352 acre feet historical pre-1907 beneficial use.


In 1945, the New Mexico Power and Light Company, operating under the City of Santa Fe franchise, requested that for the “war effort” the Japanese Internment Camp (at Casa Solana) and the Bruns Army Hospital (at Santa Fe University of Art and Design), should receive more water so the acequias were stopped and effluent water was discharged into the Agua Fria Village acequias from the Siler Road Treatment Facility.  Since the young men who were irrigators were in the war or working at defense plants in Oakland, California, no one complained. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Act halted the discharge of poorly treated effluent water into open ditches in 1971, and the acequias were again turned off.  Approximate 40 Agua Fria Residents starting alphabetically with Henry G. Anaya sued the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and the City of Santa Fe in 1971.


This lawsuit became an adjudication when the Office of State Engineer intervened and flipped the plaintiffs of Agua Fria, now over 100, into the defendants.  Many people who didn’t know English that well and were very poor dropped out of the lawsuit.  But the lawsuit continues today and is the nation’s oldest lawsuit replacing that distinction of the Aamodt lawsuit started in 1966.


The AFVA feels that the area around San Ysidro Crossing just off Agua Fria Street should receive special consideration as a “Springs” area, and merits special protection.  The springs ran in 2010 for over three months.  During this same time period the Hackett’s at 3669 Agua Fria Street drilled a well and hit first water at 13 feet.  Historically, their lot was a spring location on the Jose Romero property that dried about in 1925 (during a drought).    


The "San Isidro Springs" on the Santa Fe River at San Isidro Crossing have a recorded history of over 300 years (as very powerful artesian springs).  In addition to the spring mentioned above, there were three more springs, one above the Crossing and two below.  They occur in the limestone Tesuque Formation (sandstone dikes) that runs from the Tesuque Hill to the Town of Cerrillos.  


The springs have not been visible at the three springs locations for the period 2005-9, other than as interim "wet spots."  This is attributable to droughts and sand and gravel mining that have removed some 20-30 feet of sand at that point.  The spring above the crossing has not been visible after approximately 1975.

In working in the Santa Fe River Restoration project from the San Isidro Crossing to the bridge at County Road 62, we routinely excavate down six feet to put in eight foot cedar posts that serve as check 20% veins in the river to slow the water down.  In digging these trenches with a backhoe, in 2009 and 2010, the trenches down by the County Road 62 bridge had about two feet of standing water indicating the ability to spring.

The springs are why the Agua Fria Community Water Association located its well there in 1930.  This was a traditional watering spot for people to draw water from.  Wildlife such as deer were routinely spotted there up until the 1930’s.  


Santa Fe County Hydrologist Karen Torres did a county-wide “Springs Analysis and omitted the San Isidro Springs in 2009.  We asked her to restore the springs to her planning charts. 


Say a gasoline truck flips off of the road and spills there for instance---you scrape up some sand and call it good---no, no, no ----it should be monitored as if it was an perennial active spring because maybe the spring is some ten feet down under that sand and the plume of contamination is just going to take off into the spring.  Who really knows without field checking it?

I think the area is still to be protected as if it is a highly active spring.   Any state planning should reflect the status of a spring.


We support the City of Santa Fe’s Living River Ordinance because we see the recharge in our wells when the river runs.  Over a five year period it is averaging so 8 feet in local wells.


Thank you for your consideration of our comments.



William Henry Mee, President AFVA

(505) 473-3160


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