Report: Longterm Portales water supply 'looks promising' - Albuquerque Journal

Report: Longterm Portales water supply ‘looks promising’

Aug. 9–According to a recent report, the longterm water supply for the city of Portales “looks promising.”

However, the city’s water supply until the pipeline is turned on is a reason for its water conservation efforts.

City Manager Sarah Austin said the city’s water conservation efforts are tied to the city’s current water situation.

Long term, the city’s water supply situation looks better.

“Portales’ long-term water supply looks very promising because of the City’s participation in the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System’s Ute Pipeline Project to deliver potable water to Portales from Ute Reservoir on the Canadian River,” according to the 2021 Water Conservation and Use Report published in December.

“Portales’ share of Ute deliveries is more than one billion gallons per year, or approximately 100 million gallons more than the City’s current wellfield demand,” the report states. “This imported supply plus the increasing availability of significant volumes of reclaimed wastewater (over 64 million gallons in 2020) for uses that do not need potable water will, when fully available, provide more than enough water to meet the City’s current demand.”

“The segment of the Ute pipeline between Portales and Cannon Air Force Base is currently under construction and is expected to be completed within two years,” the report states.

“The challenge to Portales is to provide a sufficient water supply to bridge the gap between now and Ute Project water delivery with a declining water source,” the report continues. “The conclusion of last year’s Water Conservation and Use Report still holds: the groundwater is there in the ground but the problem is how to get it. Well yields have declined significantly, even to near zero at some wellfield locations, because of a declining aquifer thickness. The alternative of retrieving the remaining groundwater with large numbers of low yield wells is costly. In addition, acquiring additional supplies from wellfield expansion onto adjacent state lands has been delayed due to water right concerns.”

The city has recently decided to assess overage penalties for new commercial and industrial users who go over their base allotment. This is a water conservation effort.

The city also plans to extend these overage penalties to all commercial users, not just the newly permitted, Austin said. And finally, the city plans sometime this year to increase the water rates for all users — commercial, industrial and residential.

The City of Portales recently enacted a rate increase for new commercial and industrial users who go over their base allotment of water use.

The increase involves assessing a punitive rate to users who exceed their base allocation. Council approves the base allocation at the recommendation of the city public works committee.

For those who exceed their base allocation by 1,000 to 3,000 gallons, the charge is $250 per 1,000 gallons, as stated on the application for a permit, and the charge goes up from there as the number of gallons over the base allotment increase.

At the July 26 council meeting, Councilman Jake Lopez asked City Public Works Director John DeSha who set these rates.

DeSha said the city manager “asked me to come up with something along the lines of a punitive rate structure.”

Austin said she wanted to make it clear that the water rates are not the same as the overage penalties that kick in only for water use that exceeds the customer’s assigned base allotment.

The report “provides guidance on where water use can be reduced and how to do it. Wells in Eastern New Mexico do go dry and this should not occur in Portales,” the report states.

“Conservation Water Rates… are rates that increase as water use increases,” the report states. “This is called an inverted block rate structure. Increasing block rates have been a part of Portales’ water billing structure since 1995 and are designed to encourage water conservation and reuse. Raising water rates has been found to provide a significant incentive to reduce consumption.”

Watering is another aspect of the city’s conservation efforts.

“Alternating Day Watering,” as stated in the report. “In 2012 Portales initiated a voluntary program of watering every other day with no watering on Mondays or between 10 am and 6 pm daily. Flyers announcing the program were prepared in English and Spanish and distributed with water quality testing results in the City’s Consumer Confidence Report.”

___

(c)2022 Eastern New Mexico News, Clovis, N.M.

Visit Eastern New Mexico News, Clovis, N.M. at www.easternnewmexiconews.com

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