Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
With water levels in the Rio Grande continuing to decline, the city of Santa Fe’s largest water treatment plant may have to temporarily shut down soon.
The Buckman Direct Diversion (BDD) Water Treatment Plant, which opened in 2011, diverts water from the Rio Grande to Santa Fe and has become one of the city’s main sources of water in recent years. It’s jointly operated by the city and Santa Fe County.
But during last Thursday’s BDD Board meeting, water operators said the prolonged drought in northern New Mexico may grind operations to a halt.
“What we think we’re looking at are critically low flows starting pretty soon,” BDD Facilities Manager Rick Carpenter said.
Once water levels drop below 200 cubic feet per second (cfs), Carpenter said, the plant will be unable to pull water from the Rio Grande, which would force a shutdown.
While it remains unknown exactly when a shutdown would take place, Carpenter said it is “highly likely” one will take place in the near future. He said the plant would be offline for three to six weeks.
Water Division Director Jesse Roach, in a previous interview, told the Journal the city has enough water supply in its wells to last several years without supply from the BDD.
City officials expressed concerns last month about a possible shutdown of Buckman, after a brutal drought and dismal snowpack diminished much of the supply in New Mexico’s largest reservoirs.
Currently, Buckman is only diverting water from the San Juan-Chama Project, which delivers water to communities across the state, instead of water native to the Rio Grande, Carpenter said.
Management tactics in Albuquerque and newly-released water from the El Vado Lake Reservoir have kept the Buckman plant running, at least temporarily. As of Monday, water flows at the plant measured at 798 cfs.
Roach said the city will likely shut down its other treatment plant on Canyon Road sometime in the fall. It’s normal for the Canyon Road plant to close for two weeks, but this time the city is looking to close it for an entire month, Roach said.
Roach said periodically closing both plants would allow for cross-training of water staff and deep cleaning.