Las Vegas begins to rebound from water crisis - Albuquerque Journal

Las Vegas begins to rebound from water crisis

Storrie Lake, pictured in April as the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire burns in the background, is helping the city of Las Vegas rebound from a wildfire-fueled water crisis. A $2.25 million pre-treatment plant went online at the lake earlier this month, and is treating water and directing it to the city’s Bradner Reservoir. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Las Vegas is rebounding from a wildfire-fueled water crisis, thanks to a new treatment system and a respite from monsoon rains.

A $2.25 million pre-treatment plant went online at Storrie Lake earlier this month.

That system is now treating water and directing it to the city’s Bradner Reservoir.

The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire burned large swaths of the Gallinas watershed west of town.

Las Vegas receives almost all of its municipal supply from the watershed.

Following intense rainstorms over the burn scar, the city could no longer divert and treat ash-laden, debris-filled water from the Gallinas River.

At the peak of the crisis, on Sept. 2, Las Vegas had only about 21 days before the city was completely out of stored water.

Mayor Louie Trujillo said residents are starting to “see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“We are working around the clock to make sure that faucets never go dry,” Trujillo said.

Utilities director Maria Gilvarry said a recent break in monsoon storms has reduced turbidity and pollution in the river enough so that the city can also treat some river water.

The measures have allowed the city to build up a 34-day water supply in Bradner Reservoir.

Storrie Lake could provide an additional 120 days of water.

Even though the city is starting to replenish its water storage, officials are still encouraging residents to conserve water.

The city distributes water supplies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to more than 1,000 households each week.

City Manager Leo Maestas said Las Vegas is searching for long-term solutions to avoid a similar water crisis in the future.

“We have engineers looking at what it would take to get a state-of-the-art facility that can not only treat brackish water, but also effluent water and the turbid water that’s coming down the river,” Maestas said.

The treatment system was paid for with state emergency funds.

State Engineer Mike Hamman has restricted irrigation water diversions out of Storrie Lake to help preserve the Las Vegas supply.

Hamman said this week that the state is helping negotiate an agreement between the city and the Storrie Lake Water Users Association during the water crisis.

“The pipeline they use to both fill and pull out water from Storrie Lake can only be used one way now, because the treatment system will be pushing water back to Bradner Reservoir for final treatment and placement into the city system,” Hamman said.

The system can no longer be used to fill Storrie Lake.

New Mexico is seeking federal reimbursement for money spent on the Las Vegas treatment system and the costs of replenishing supply for farmers and ranchers that irrigate out of Storrie Lake.

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