Chupadero’s Water Emergency: An Update

Chupadero Tightens Up

Report and photos by ERIC SHULTZ

Dry creek bed, lower Chupadero valley; above the falls, the situation is little better.

Since our report on the water emergency in a village north of Santa Fe called Chupadero, the community water system remains in crisis mode. Under rationing, the village has managed to refill its storage tank and keep it full – a source of some comfort in fire season – but life has not returned to normal. As of time of writing, no one has offered a site for a new well. At a recent meeting, Water Association members authorized their board to explore a possible Santa Fe County takeover of the mutual domestic system. Making matters worse, the creek has dried up at Chupadero’s head gate and even the upstream settlement of El Rito is struggling to stretch out a dwindling supply.

Chupadero valley irrigators install a neoprene liner along a leaky section of their upper acequia.

For nearly a century and a half, the Chupadero valley has “imported” surface water from the Rio en Medio by way of one of a handful of inter-basin acequias that exist in New Mexico. The Chupadero valley irrigators usually gather in June for cleaning and maintenance on the “upper” ditch, which in normal years extends the irrigating season through the summer. This past Saturday (June 30), in a last ditch effort (sorry) to catch the monsoon rains, parciantes installed neoprene liners along two leaky sections. Even if this proves to be too little too late for this season, the act of making improvements expresses Chupadero’s commitment to the future of its acequia. On Monday, it rained enough to moisten the ground and give some relief from the horno-like temperatures. By Thursday, flow to the upper valley orchards had improved markedly. But the drought conditions are deep and may take years of above-normal precipitation to reverse. In Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks gave us the classic gag, “It could be worse: it could be raining.” Chupadero is one place where the opposite is true.

Mayordomo David Roybal gives instruction to a multi-generational crew.
Patrick Duran, descendant of one of Chupadero’s founding families, tips a boulder while Ted Seeley anchors the liner.
Chupadero mutual domestic water master Jack Miller places a stone to anchor the liner’s edge.
George Amos (standing) and David Roybal inspect the liner with water flowing.


  1. Great to see the village in action, thanks for the update. On the other hand, it will be very interesting to follow the water association’s future plans, as to whether they will actively seek hook-up via the (SFe) County regional water system being planned as part of the Aamodt settlement. Onwards!

    • Thanks for your comment. One quick clarification: planners involved in the Aamodt settlement have deemed it unfeasible to extend a regional water system to include Chupadero, even though it lies within the affected area: the mutual domestic is exploring a County takeover of the existing separate system

  2. I find the comment “unfeasible” disturbing as I recall that being a solution to the problem and part of the settlement. I recall that I could have capped my well to hook up to the regional system. I was skeptical as I thought it would be very difficult and expensive to get a system to Chupadero and Rio en Medio. However, I could have been mistaken as a lot of rhetoric was spewed and confusion was plentiful. Also, it wasn’t like I had a vote in the matter. I just hope my well doesn’t dry up. How has the Governor and County been involved in solving this problem?

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