Q&A with Kathy Wright

Kathy Wright serves as vice-president and manager of New Mexico-American Water Co.

Q: How long have you been in this position with New Mexico-American Water Co.?
A: Since October 1999. I was here in Clovis working with the company. I’ve been with the company for 16 years.

Q: At a recent Clovis City Commission meeting, Mayor David Lansford recognized you and President Paul Townsley and mentioned that your company would be interested in purchasing the water obtained by the city through the Ute water pipeline project. He also noted that a memorandum of agreement might be in the works. Can you elaborate on that?
A: We’re very pleased to have the opportunity to work with the city to provide the water the city is accustomed to having. We have become aware that people have been concerned that New Mexico-American would not be a participant (in the Ute water pipeline project), but a memorandum of agreement with the city will demonstrate New Mexico-American is committed in writing to be a partner in the project.

Q: How do you view being able to extend our water supply in the future?
A: In order to be an effective water manager, the company needs the ability to utilize the surface water from Ute Reservoir when it’s available and allow the groundwater (the Ogallala aquifer) to rest. Then when a time comes that the surface water is not available, the company would use the groundwater source. So by doing so, New Mexico-American really gets to stretch the limited water resources we have here in New Mexico.

Q: Based on your calculations and your contact with city officials, when do you think a memorandum of agreement might be drafted?
A: You should see it within the next few months. We would like to sit down with the city staff and city attorney as soon as possible.

Q: What would be the major issues to be addressed in that document?
A: We know cost is going to be a major issue. The city will pay a cost for the water from Ute Reservoir, and there will be a cost between the city and New Mexico-American. Any contract of this type, of course, will be subject to the approval of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

Q: Any idea what that cost may be?
A: I don’t think we do. There really hasn’t been any engineering work done to determine what that cost will be. No one really knows what share the state and federal governments will have in the project — that can make or break the project.

Q: How long do you think our water supplies in this area will last?
A: It all depends on the usage level. The majority of usage here is agricultural. If agriculture cuts back, it would be a significantly longer life span. We have acquired additional land from the Oppligers and have extended our source of supply for another 20 or 30 years at the current levels. If we were to use Ute water part of the year and groundwater part of the year, that could extend the life of the aquifer even longer.

Q: Your company has a rate case coming before the PRC — how does that affect the Ute water pipeline project?
A: It doesn’t. The company’s current rate filing is primarily due to the investment that the company has made and is making to extending the life of the groundwater it uses today. The company is constructing two to three new wells every year in order to use the water it purchased from the Oppliger property.

Q: Are there any other reasons for the company’s current rate filing?
A: Since the company’s last increase in rates in January 1999, our costs have gone up every year just like everyone else’s. The cost for electricity to pump water, chemical costs for treatment, and costs for wages and salaries of the local work force have all gone up. Overall, the company is asking the PRC to approve a rate increase of 10.5 percent.

Q: What impact will that have on the average residential customer?
A: The impact varies depending on consumption and meter size. A customer using 10,000 gallons of water from a 5/8-inch meter would increase from $35.46 to $39.76 per month, about a 12.21 percent increase.
— Compiled by CNJ Senior Writer Gary Mitchell