Officials say water issues not cause for immediate concern

By William P. Thompson: Freedom Newspapers

Eastern New Mexico has been without significant rainfall since mid-October, and local entities are preparing for continued dry weather — but water issues are not cause for immediate alarm, officials said.

“Right now, a number of our wells are not even pumping water out because the demand for water is not there,” said Tom Howell, director of public works for Portales.

But Howell also warns:

“That could change at any time. One of our wells could be knocked out by lightning or a well could simply stop working, or demand for water could exceed our pumping capacity.”

In Clovis, City Manager Joe Thomas said the city will soon be suggesting residents conserve water.

“In April, we will send out notices to the media urging people to voluntarily go to odd/even watering of lawns,” Thomas said. “That means that people who live in even-numbered houses would water their lawns on certain days of the week and people in odd-numbered houses would water their lawns on the other days of the week.”

Stricter conservation measures would go into effect in Clovis if demand exceeded supply. Thomas said a city ordinance provides for mandatory conservation measures if demand were to exceed supply by 15 percent. At that point an alert would be issued, and odd/even watering would be mandatory; watering of lawns between the hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. would be prohibited; and swimming pools could not be refilled after their initial filling.

The Clovis ordinance provides for stricter measures if demand were to exceed supply by 26 percent and even tougher measures if demand were to exceed supply by 35 percent. Officials could prohibit residents from watering lawns and washing vehicles in extreme conditions, Thomas said.

But Thomas said he can’t recall the city ordering mandatory water conservation measures.

“Up to now all conservation measures have been voluntary,” he said.

In Portales, Howell said a city ordinance gives the public works department the right to turn off residents’ water if they refuse to comply with mandatory conservation measures.

“If we decided to go to odd/even watering and a resident said they weren’t going to follow that, then the ordinance allows us to turn that resident’s water off,” Howell said. “That’s all it (the ordinance) does.”

Thomas said Clovis officials are considering a plan to issue rebates to residents who replace old toilets with contemporary models that use less water.

“Clovis now requires all new construction to have a water recirculation system,” Thomas said. “It’s basically a pump that keeps hot water flowing through the system so you don’t waste several gallons of water waiting for the hot water to come out when you turn a faucet on.”

Howell said it just makes sense to conserve water, because no one knows the lifespan of the region’s main water supply, the Ogallala Aquifer.