Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority board has approved a $1 million expense for designing a project to deliver up to 3 million gallons of water a day to Intel.
The water will support the tech company’s $3.5 billion upgrade of its computer chip manufacturing plant in Rio Rancho.
Two wells that will serve Intel contain water that is high in arsenic, and they have never been used by the utility for drinking water.
Mark Sanchez, ABCWUA’s executive director, said the company will treat and return about 2.4 million gallons a day into the utility’s wastewater system to offset the increased groundwater pumping.
“At that point, it’s no longer arsenic water or has any other contaminants,” Sanchez said. “We (also) have a pre-treatment system that we capture and treat the water before it goes back into the river.”
Intel will reimburse the $1 million and pay for the infrastructure.
The project may include building a well collector line and improving the wells.
Intel’s water use from the utility will be 600,000 gallons a day.
Sanchez said that amount will not strain water deliveries on the west side of the Rio Grande.
Intel’s on-site system will treat water for use in manufacturing and cooling towers.
The company has a goal of restoring more freshwater than it consumes by 2030.
Intel funded an Audubon water lease to boost river flows and bird habitat in the Isleta Reach of the Rio Grande, and a Trout Unlimited restoration project on Comanche Creek in northern New Mexico.
“Organizations small and large must come together and implement innovative ways to conserve water, one of our most precious resources,” Suzanne Fallender, Intel’s director of corporate responsibility, said in a statement. “Individual action to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, like climate change, isn’t enough.”
Intel is an existing customer of the water utility authority, which inherited a city of Albuquerque agreement to accept the company’s wastewater discharge.
“Historically, what Intel has been forced to do is acquire water rights from irrigators and farmers to authorize their pumping,” Sanchez said. “So I think there’s clearly an advantage for the water authority to provide this service and not force Intel to go into the market and acquire additional water rights.”
Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.