LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – Los Lunas residents and environmental activists are protesting the proposed expansion at the Niagara Bottling plant. If approved, its water could increase to more than 200 million gallons of water in a single year.

Water usage is already up during the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued drought doesn’t help things. Some in the area are worried about the plant nearly doubling its water consumption and the impact it can have on the environment.

“Basically, they’re going to be pulling from the water table and as you know, we’re in a drought, currently. We have a lot of farmers that farm in that area,” said Alejandria Lyons, the environmental justice organizer for the Southwest Organizing Project. “It’s scary because we’re pulling water from other parts of the state but we need to be worried about the groundwater that’s right underneath us. This is going to affect Albuquerque, this is going to affect Socorro, this is going to affect all of us in the future.”

It’s the reason many came out Tuesday to protest the council’s proposal, lining up their cars at Daniel Fernandez Park in Los Lunas and welcoming a number of speakers from the community. Afterward, they had plans to drive to the Niagara Bottling plant and possibly the council chambers on Main Street ahead of Thursday’s meeting. With a continued drought, activists believe this could put the state’s groundwater supply at risk — something we can’t replenish.

“Our water is an essential resource and we need to protect it,” said Sonora Veievolny, a senior at Albuquerque High School. “Companies coming in taking the little water that we have, it breaks apart our community.”

Right now, Niagara’s agreement with the Village of Los Lunas allows the company to use about 92 million gallons of water each year. If the village approves the expansion, that would jump to 211 million gallons each year.

“It’s very hard to think they would give more to a company in the desert. This isn’t the first time Niagara Bottling has done something like this,” said Lyons. “We’re hoping that this car rally will influence some of the council members and the mayor to change their mind on expanding the water for Niagara.”

The Village of Los Lunas council is expected to make a decision about the expansion at this Thursday’s meeting, starting at 6 p.m. KRQE reached out to the mayor and council members for comment but have not heard back.

Niagara Bottling currently employs 40-50 people. They told the village that the head count could increase by 18-30 people.