Tierna Unruh-Enos is publisher at The Paper.

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Last Thursday, July 28th, the Los Lunas Village Council voted to “table indefinitely” the Niagara Bottling corporation’s request to increase their water draw from the Albuquerque Basin aquifer from 285 acre-feet/year (92+ million gallons/yr) to 700 acre-feet/year (228+ million gallons/yr). 

While Valencia Water Watchers, a non-political group of volunteers is cautiously optimistic about Niagara’s request being indefinitely tabled at this me, we remain watchful. The group believes community should have the opportunity to review the Water Rights report that the Village of Los Lunas is waiting on, and should be actively involved in major decisions such as these that will impact the Albuquerque Basin aquifer for generations to come. 

This is the third time in five weeks that the Los Lunas Village Council has tabled this agenda item. 

On June 23, 2022, the Niagara expansion was item number one on the Los Lunas Village Council Agenda. Valencia Water Watchers (VWW) rallied community opposition to Niagara’s request and 75 people showed up to express their opposition to the expansion, many holding “NO to Niagara” flyers. The Council chambers were filled, with dozens of community members spilling over into the overflow area outside the chambers. That evening, the Village Council tabled the agenda item to July 14th, because a report from the Village’s “water rights experts” was missing. After the item was tabled, community members weren’t allowed to make public comments, but local attorney Del Conroy persuaded Los Lunas mayor Charles Griego to allow commentary from those in the audience. 

On July 14th, the Niagara expansion was on the Village Council agenda, but it was tabled again (to July 28th) because the Water Rights Experts’ report was still missing. Then, on July 28th, the Village Council tabled Niagara’s request “indefinitely.” 

Faced with Niagara’s renewed request for more water (to 228 million gallons/year), VWW has collected 2,981 signatures on a petition launched in mid-June, asking the Village of Los Lunas Councilors to Vote NO on Niagara’s request for more water. In addition, VWW is conducting an ongoing online survey targeting the Valencia County community. 

Local opposition to Niagara’s requests is overwhelming. From the ongoing survey conducted by a group of volunteers: 

● 79.9% report being Very Dissatisfied with Niagara Bottling’s operation in Los Lunas, 

● 76% are Extremely Worried about Niagara’s current use of local water 

(and another 16.2% are Very Worried), while 

● 93.5% Strongly Oppose Niagara’s request for more water (and another 3.9% Oppose the request) 

Valencia County residents are not the only ones who oppose Niagara’s taking of community water. In 2016, people in Bloomfield, CN, also protested the secretive water deal that Niagara negotiated with their city leaders and water authority. And in June, 2022, the people of Eau Claire, WI, rallied against Niagara coming into their community.