New Mexico’s Domestic Well Statute is Ruled Constitutional

The New Mexico Supreme Court issued its opinion today in Bounds v. State of New Mexico ex rel. State Engineer, Nos. 32,713 & 32,717 (July 25, 2013), holding that the New Mexico Domestic Well Statute does not violate the New Mexico Constitution’s doctrine of prior appropriation or constitutional due process protections.  The Court upheld the authority of the State Engineer to issue domestic well permits, pursuant to the Domestic Well Statute, without regard to the availability of unappropriated water in the relevant water basin.  The Court found that domestic well permits remain subject to priority administration of water rights, but concluded that the doctrine of prior appropriation governs use and administration of water rights, not acquisition of those rights.  The Court noted that senior water rights holders were not without recourse against newly-permitted domestic well water users, and the senior rights holders could make a priority call or file a new, as-applied legal challenge to the Domestic Well Statute.  For further information on the Bounds opinion and water rights, please contact Susan Bisong or Sarah Stevenson.