Officials express varied concerns about water supply

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

The operations manager for New Mexico American Water Co. said the company is adding new wells to stay ahead of the growth the city is expected to experience from the transition of Cannon Air Force Base to a Special Operations Command and new industries settling in Clovis.

Jim Bonner said the city’s water provider is now able to supply a daily maximum output of 13.56 million gallons, which is about 2 million more than last year at the same time.

“Whether it’s other industries or motels and restaurants, whatever, we’ve got other users other than just the base,” he said after giving a water update at Tuesday’s Water Policy Advisory Committee meeting.

Bonner also told the committee quarterly reports indicate some of the 53 wells connected to the Ogallala Aquifer are down to their last 40 feet of standing water, Bonner said, and in the last three years, water levels have dropped to about 9 feet.

As water levels in some wells decline, Bonner said the company will dig new wells. He said the company averages six wells every year in the last three years.

Bonner said he did not know how long the company’s water supply in the Clovis-area would last.

The rate of the decline in water levels has some officials concernedthe city needs to address the water situation immediately.

Experts say the Ogallala Aquifer could run out of sustainable water in the next 40 years.

The decline in the water levels demonstrates the need for projects to conserve water and to find a new source of water for the city, according to Mayor Pro-Tem and Water Policy Advisory Committee Chairman Randy Crowder.

While City Manager Joe Thomas does not agree that the crisis will come soon, he said water availability is an issue the city needs to address.

“Everything we’re doing is actions that are being taken to address that: The Effluent Reuse Program, the Ute Pipeline, all of those are issues that we’re trying to provide water sustainability,” he said.

The City Commission will decide in Thursday’s meeting whether to start the final design of the first phase of the effluent reuse pipeline project.

The $16 million project would save the city about 670 million gallons of water a year.

“We’re all aware that if people will change their behaviors, if the farmers stop irrigating so much, if the town becomes very, very conservative, we get our effluent pipeline in place, the numbers change and that extends the life (of the aquifer),” Crowder said.

The city is also working with the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority to bring the Ute Water project. The project would pipe water from Ute Lake to eight entities in eastern New Mexico.