At press time, it remained unclear precisely which communities might benefit, as the governor was still prioritizing projects and negotiating with state lawmakers about what share of the capital outlay dollars should be appropriated to her projects.
It was heartening, however, to hear Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn’s announcement last week that the administration supports two important projects for the city of Rio Rancho. Hopefully both will be in the capital outlay bill that ultimately reaches the governor’s desk.
One of the city’s requests is for $1.46 million to continue replacing the community’s leaky water lines. The other is to drill a new well to compensate for city wells that have been deteriorating over the past two decades. The city requested $3.89 million to apply to that project, which has a total estimated cost of $9.3 million.
Most Rio Ranchoans are familiar with the city’s water line woes brought on by failing polyethylene service lines and the city’s goal of eventually replacing all 14,930 of them over the next decade. To be sure, city residents already have been paying more in their water bills the past year to help push that project forward.
But residents might not realize that in recent summers the community’s demand for water has exceeded 85 percent of the city’s pumping capacity. If an existing well or a couple of booster stations were to fail for an extended period of time, the city might not have any choice but to order mandatory cutbacks in water use.
Secretary Flynn said the projects would improve the city’s infrastructure and provide “a solid foundation” for economic growth.
It’s a good sign that the amount of capital outlay funding available this year is now $222 million, based on a recent Legislative Council Service projection. It was $187 million when the governor announced her funding plan for water projects in November. At the time, she proposed that 60 percent of that amount, or $112 million, go to water infrastructure.
Frankly, there is no other resource more vital to New Mexico’s future than water. Protecting it and ensuring we use it efficiently by addressing aging infrastructure, as the governor proposes, are worthy goals. Our local state lawmakers said they believe Rio Rancho’s projects meet the governor’s criterion for funding. We hope the rest of the Legislature agrees.