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Santa Fe County, city discuss sharing water

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Amid a year of historic drought and low levels of water, the city and county of Santa Fe have drafted a new water-sharing agreement, which seeks to help maintain healthy water supplies for both governments as the supply becomes more tenuous in future years.

The Shared Pool Agreement, if approved by city councilors on Jan. 27, centers around the Buckman Direct Diversion, the water treatment plant that pumps water from the Rio Grande to the Santa Fe area. It’s co-owned by the city and county.

The agreement would allow the city to use some of the native Rio Grande water that goes unused by the county each year. In exchange, should Buckman become inoperable at any point, the county would have that water returned to them.

“The shared pool essentially allows the city and county to use each other’s water,” said Jesse Roach, the city’s Water Division director.

Roach said the county would essentially be “storing” water it normally wouldn’t use with the city’s supply, and the county would be able to take it back when needed.

County Utilities Division Director John Dupuis said the agreement would be mutually beneficial between the agencies, since both rely heavily on Buckman for their water supplies.

“We are joined at the hip relative to our water system,” Dupuis said, adding the county already relies on city water as its backup source.

The draft agreement comes as the likelihood of a temporary shutdown of the Buckman Direct Diversion has begun to increase.

Due to the current drought, water levels in the Rio Grande dipped so low some water operators feared a shutdown would be necessary because the plant wouldn’t be physically capable of pumping water from the river.

Roach said Buckman could also be shut down for maintenance reasons, if need be.

The bigger question in the future, Dupuis said, is not if they’ll have to shut down Buckman, but for how long.

“We’re gonna get to a place where we’ll be using (the agreement) every year,” he said. “It’s a huge step for the city to say they’d agree to this.”

Councilor Signe Lindell said during a Jan. 11 Public Works Committee meeting that she thought the agreement benefitted the county more, but that it was important for the city and county to come to some sort of agreement.

“In a spirit of cooperation and trying to secure the water future for both the city and the county … I think we’ll probably pass this,” Lindell said.

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