New Mexico Dairies
"Got Muck?" Campaign
Amigos Bravos is working to hold the dairy industry accountable so that New Mexican’s drinking water will be safe for future generations.
For a comprehensive video about this campaign please see:
To donate to the "Got Muck?" Campaign, please visit: http://www.razoo.com/story/Amigos-Bravos?referral_code=share
Dairies Mean Manure
Dairies in New Mexico generate almost 6,400,000 gallons of manure every day. That’s as much waste as 800,000 residents in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho, Roswell, and North Valley and South Valley in Bernalillo County combined send to their wastewater treatment plants daily.
New Mexico has the highest average number of cows per dairy in the country, with over 2,000. These factory farms, also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), are not like the image the dairy industry wants to sell you: clean happy cows grazing far apart on lush green meadows. The truth is, dairy cows in New Mexico live in crowded and filthy conditions, walking in their own manure and getting constant injections of antibiotics to increase milk production and keep down disease.
Manure Means Contamination
Dairies are required to capture wastewater and store it in lagoons for use as nutrients for nearby crops or to evaporate. For decades, these lagoons were lined with manure itself, then with clay, both of which are known to leak dangerous levels of nitrates and pharmaceuticals into the ground and into drinking water aquifers.
New Mexico Environment Department monitoring data show that two-thirds of New Mexico’s dairies have contaminated groundwater with excess nitrogen from cattle manure. Ninety percent of New Mexico’s drinking water is drawn from groundwater sources.
The contaminants entering New Mexico’s drinking water supply pose a number of risks to water quality and public health. In addition to Nitrates, E. coli and Salmonella, other pathogens, hormones, and antibiotics are entering into our drinking water.
The Dairy Rule
In 2009, the State Legislature ordered the NM Environment Department to create a dairy industry-specific rule for protecting groundwater from dairy industry waste. When the dairy industry realized that they were not going to be able to write the regulations themselves and that residents in dairy country and environmental groups – including Amigos Bravos – were also going to participate, the dairy industry fought creating the new rule for almost three years.
Watching the Watchers
The Dairy Rule finally went into effect in January 2013. It is intended to make it easier to monitor dairy waste and improve waste management practices. However, Amigos Bravos has been following the permit process under the new Rule and the State – under a new Governor – has been allowing dairies to continue using practices that the new Rule prohibits and that will allow contamination to continue.
Investigating all the permits being issued by the NM Environment Department for over 170 dairies and checking to make sure they follow the Dairy Rule is an extremely time-consuming process. When we find violations, we need technical and legal assistance to support a challenge against the permits and the state agency.
Our fundraising goal is $12,000 for the next year. The money raised through this campaign will allow Amigos Bravos to dedicate staff time to an intensive effort to investigate the many new permits, hold the Environment Department and the dairy industry accountable, and put an end to unchecked dairy contamination of our waters.
For over 25 years Amigos Bravos has fought very effectively to protect and restore New Mexico’s rivers and waters. Amigos Bravos is a New Mexico statewide not-for-profit (501.c.3) water conservation organization based in Taos and Albuquerque. All donations are tax-deductible. To learn more about our organization, the work we do, and how to become a member visit: http://www.amigosbravos.org.
The dairy industry in New Mexico is the number one agricultural activity in the state, with 159 dairies and approximately 325,000 milk cows. The average New Mexico dairy produces 44 million pounds of milk per year, which is worth an estimated 5.8 million dollars. New Mexico is the seventh largest milk producing state, providing 4% of the 177 billion pounds of milk produced annually in the United States.
New Mexico’s dairy industry is dominated by large-scale industrial dairies. These are also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and are sometimes referred to as “megafarms”. New Mexico has the highest average number of animals per facility of any state in the country (2,400 cows) and these dairies produce 5.6 million gallons of manure waste each day. In an arid state like New Mexico, all water in the state needs to be protected. Dairies in New Mexico have polluted groundwater as shallow as 3-4 ft and as deep as 400 ft. and everything in-between. According to New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) data, nearly 2/3’s of the state’s dairies currently violate state groundwater standards for nitrates; if other violations of groundwater standards are included, the number of dairies in violation increases. See below for a map of New Mexico’s dairy farms (Image source: New Mexico State University).
On December 15, 2010, The Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) passed New Mexico’s first industry-specific regulations for the dairy industry (Press Release). The regulations govern dairy waste pollution in ground water. They will require a plastic liner for manure filled wastewater impoundments, minimum setbacks from important water resources such as drinking water wells, and that dairies provide notice to property owners within a 1 mile radius of a proposed dairy that includes a map so the public can see where the dairy will be located in relation to residences and natural resources. To see the diary regulations, click here.
For the supplemental permitting requirements for dairy facilities, click here.
To see Amigo’s Bravos Testimony at the hearings prior to the passing of the regulations, click here.