Small towns at risk

The town of Yasso in western De Baca County is little more than a post office, dilapidated buildings and pastures. Without water restrictions, some state officials think other rural towns could suffer the same fate.

By Gary Mitchell

Could water shortages produce ghost towns throughout eastern New Mexico any time soon?
It’s possible.
“We do have the prospect of ghost towns in the future with the Ogallala Aquifer drying up,” said Lee Tillman, executive director of Eastern Plains Council of Governments.
“Elida, for example, is at risk because they don’t have any wells anymore. They’re leasing water from a landowner several miles away.
“San Jon has water problems. They’re in the process of connecting with Logan, and Logan’s supply is connected to Ute Lake, not to the Ogallala.”
Those communities are not alone in facing serious water issues in the near future, Tillman said.
“Texico only has two working wells right now,” he said. “And in Fort Sumner, there’s a big debate about radiologicals (radioactive contaminants) in the water. They have naturally occurring uranium in formation there. … It’s been used to whip up a public frenzy, but Fort Sumner has done as good a job as anybody to secure their water rights from a legal standpoint.”
Tillman said he is not a “gloom-and-doom guy,” but he does think it’s time the region begins taking a serious look at its water future.
“There’s no silver bullet, no magic pill, to solve all of our water problems,” he said. “It’s conservation and management. Instead of a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ mentality, we have to have a stewardship mentality.”