Working to Protect and Preserve our Communities

CESOSS believes strongly in advocating alongside our community to demand and create change. As individuals who live in the Valle de Atrisco community, we see it as our obligation to be involved and active in issues related to the protection and preservation of land and water based traditions.

Current Issues

Water Rights Advocacy Work

CESOSS, along with the South Valley Regional Association of Acequias (SVRAA), continues to work with community members in declaring and protecting water rights and assisting in protests of water rights transfers when they pose a negative impact to our community. 


Many South Valley residents possess a precious and valuable resource - water right(s). A water right refers to “the right to water from a specific water source to be used at a specific location and for a specific beneficial purpose.” 


To date, there are many residents who either lack knowledge that their properties possess water rights and/or if they do have knowledge of water rights, they are unsure of how to navigate the process of declaring potential water rights.

Due to continued drought and pressure from major developments, the preservation and protection of water rights has become a crucial issue in the South Valley. The need to further engage our community in these discussions has become vital because water resources continue to face major local, national, and global challenges.

Battle Against the Santolina Master Plan

The Santolina Master Plan is a proposed development that would cover 13,850 acres on the Southwest Mesa.  At build out, it is projecting over 37,000 houses, plus commercial and industrial buildings to be built on old and unstable sand dunes. The developers project an estimated population of 95,000 people - that is almost the size of Rio Rancho. In other words, the developers are proposing a new city to be built that will add greater demands to our already strained water system.

Organizing in Our Community

Out of various concerns brought up during organization and neighborhood association meetings,  a core group emerged that has been meeting and working on this issue since 2014. The community continues to take a strong stand against the Santolina development because it poses many negative health risks to our communities.  Here are some of the primary concerns:

  • Increased taxes for all residents and would funnel money away from existing community needs

  • Santolina poses increased negative health impacts related to the increased exposure to blowing sand resulting from the disturbance of ancient geologic sand dunes

  • Santolina projects to ultimately need at least 14 million gallons of water per day

  • It would deplete the underground water in the Rio Grande Basin – which is likely irreversible

  • The San Juan Chama water is already completely allocated; Santolina would require the purchase of senior water rights to supply the need from farmers within the Rio Grande Basin and necessitate a steep increase in groundwater pumping

  • The wells in the North and South Valleys would be de-watered by the demands for water needed by this massive development

Our Role in Contra Santolina

CESOSS has been proud to be part of the Contra Santolina Working Group since it was formed in 2014.  The Contra Santolina Working Group is an alliance of local organizations, neighborhood associations, and community members who have a shared philosophy - the protection of community and who understand the sacredness of water.  Because CESOSS is located in the Valle de Atrisco, one of the communities who would be most impacted by the Santolina development, we have taken a primary role in this group, specifically on research related to the Santolina Master Plan and in communications and media efforts. The Contra Santolina Working Group has proven the power of how effective groups can be when they unite. 

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Learn more about the Santolina Master Plan 


Logic Fails to Dissuade Sprawl
Article published in the New Mexico Mercury: A regional meeting of the minds, December 2014
Say No to Zombie Developments
Article published in La Jicarita, October 2014
Santolina Water Worries are Real
Published in NM Political Report, June 2015
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