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Emergency help for Magdalena

Lorenzo Torres rests for a moment as he helps to unload 35 pallets of bottled water donated in a drive organized by the Albuquerque Police Department for the residents of Magdalena, where a failing water system has left service intermittent. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)
Lorenzo Torres rests for a moment as he helps to unload 35 pallets of bottled water donated in a drive organized by the Albuquerque Police Department for the residents of Magdalena, where a failing water system has left service intermittent. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)
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Albuquerque sends 2 water trucks to town that’s being hit hard by drought

One truckload at a time is not the most efficient way to bring water to a community. But with tiny Magdalena’s only well near the failure point, the central New Mexico town was happy for any help it could get Friday, according to Larry Cearley, the town’s chief of police and temporarily deputized water system manager.

Xavier Vasquez loads a 4,000-gallon Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority truck for the 100-mile drive to Magdalena, to help supplement the town’s failing water supply.(jOHN fLECK/jOURNAL)

Xavier Vasquez loads a 4,000-gallon Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority truck for the 100-mile drive to Magdalena, to help supplement the town’s failing water supply.(jOHN fLECK/jOURNAL)

“They’re in an emergency, and we want to help out,” explained David Morris, spokesman for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, as utility crews Friday morning filled the first of two 4,000-gallon water trucks for the 100-mile drive to Magdalena, in the mountains west of Socorro.

By Friday afternoon, the trucks were dumping their load into Magdalena’s 100,000-gallon booster tank, which feeds water to the community’s 500 residences.

Hit by a combination of drought and aging infrastucture, Magdalena has become the most well-publicized example of a municipal water shortage in a state gripped by its third year of extreme drought. Ninety percent of the state is in “extreme drought,” according to the weekly federal Drought Monitor, the worst conditions in the nation.

In early June, a dropping water table combined with accumulated silt left the community’s primary water well completely dry. In the last week, conditions have improved, with the water table rising enough to use the pump intermittently, Cearley said Friday.

In good times, before the well had problems, Magdalena customers used 70,000 gallons of water per day, according to Cearley. That’s down to 57,000 gallons currently, he said, with the intermittent pumping and various water contributions of trucked water such as the ones that arrived Friday from Albuquerque. At the rate of Magdalena’s current usage, the Albuquerque contribution provides enough water for three or four hours of community use.

Cearley said work on a second well is underway that should be on line some time next week, to relieve the pressure on the community’s primary well.

Magdalena is not alone. Tiny Maxwell, in northeast New Mexico, saw its wells go completely dry earlier this year. With rehabilitation work and a new well, water is flowing again through the community’s pipes, village clerk Joanna Taylor said Friday. “We’re keeping up with demand,” Taylor said.

While communities seeing their wells go dry is rare, the drought has left many communities with reduced supplies, said Bill Conner, deputy director of the New Mexico Rural Water Association. “Water tables are dropping in a lot of areas of the state,” Conner said.

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