Joe M Stell Water Ombudsman Program
The Joe M Stell Water Ombudsman Program is a statewide program within the Utton Center at the University of New Mexico School of Law. Through outreach to communities, the Ombudsman Program offers education about policy and legal matters pertaining to adjudications and other information to water rights claimants and others. The primary purpose of this program is to provide support in adjudication processes and help communities by providing those involved with unbiased information about this multifaceted process.
Adjudications - wherein a legal figure reviews two opposing cases based on evidence - are complex, expensive and lengthy proceedings. The adjudication of water rights, however, is required under the 1907 New Mexico Water Code and gives the New Mexico State Engineer the information necessary to meet his statutory obligations; that is, to administer the existing water uses, preserve the aquifer, make informed decisions about the future water development in the area, be ready to administer in times of storage, and meet New Mexico's Compact obligations.
The Ombudsman acts as a third party neutral advisor, to help communities and pro se claimants understand options available to them for responding to adjudication processes, including pleadings and offers of judgment or consent orders from the state. The Ombudsman does not offer legal advice.
The Program is active in both state and federal water rights adjudications. Since its inception in 2005, the Ombudsman Program has participated in the Lower Rio Grande Adjudication (LRG), the Zuni River Adjudication, the Nambe/Pojoaque & Tesuque Adjudication (Aamodt or NPT), the Gallinas River Section of the Pecos Adjudication (Lewis) and the San Juan River Basin Adjudication.
The Program offers the following services:
- Outreach Services including telephone outreach and mailings
- Public Meetings/Workshops
- Pre-Mediation and Mediator Training Services
- Instructional Publications and Website Information
- Información y ayuda en español está disponible
Ombudsman Contact Information
Stephanie Russo Baca, Director
If you would like to arrange a time to speak to our Ombudsman, Stephanie Russo Baca, please fill out this form.The Ombudsman Program does not offer legal advice. Claimants who believe they need legal advice are encouraged to consult with an attorney. The Ombudsman Program is an independent program and is not associated with any court, the federal government, or the Office of the State Engineer.
New Mexico Adjudication Information
For information on the New Mexico adjudication process, click below to view the Ombudsman Program's step-by-step video guide:
Para información sobre el proceso de juicio de derechos de agua en Nuevo Mexico, haga clic en el video de abajo: