Herrington v. State of New Mexico ex rel. Office of the State Engineer

139 N.M. 368, 133 P.3d 258 (2006)

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Herrington v. State of New Mexico ex rel. Office of the State Engineer

New Mexico Supreme Court
139 N.M. 368, 133 P.3d 258 (2006)

Facts

Ellis and Laverne Herrington (plaintiffs) had a long-standing surface-water right in the Rio de Arenas Valley. However, groundwater wells established by junior water-rights holders in an aquifer that fed the basin surface waters diminished the Herringtons’ ability to draw their allocated water. Therefore, the Herringtons applied to the state engineer, John D’Antonio (defendant), to drill a well to supplement their surface-water right with groundwater. D’Antonio denied the application because the Herringtons would be appropriating water from a deeper aquifer that did not feed the surface waters they used. Their appropriation would also impair others’ water rights. The Herringtons appealed to the New Mexico district court, arguing that the underlying aquifers were not separate and ultimately fed the surface water flow. The district court agreed that the groundwater wells had impeded the Herringtons’ water right but held that because the Herringtons’ proposed well would reach an aquifer that did not feed the affected surface-water flow, they were not entitled to the supplemental well. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling. The Herringtons appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bosson, C.J.)

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