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New proposal for water for Chamisa Hills

If this was a baseball game, Rio Rancho city councilors, staff and the Utilities Commissioners would be about ready for the seventh inning stretch.

They’ve all discussed the rate the city charges for recycled water at several public meetings and they are scheduled to revisit the issue again at a work session at 5:30 p.m. on Monday in Council Chambers at City Hall.

This time, Councilor Chuck Wilkins is hoping the discussion will include a suggestion he made at the Utilities Commission meeting this week.


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His idea: Allow Chamisa Hills Golf and Country Club, one of the city’s two present recycled water customers, to buy a well the city plans to discontinue using to provide irrigation water for the course. Alternatively, Wilkins suggested allowing Chamisa to drill its own water wells.

“I love the idea. It would get us off the city system,” Jhett Browne, one of two local businessmen interested in buying Chamisa, told the Journal this week.

Browne is hopeful he and business partner Bob Gallagher can close the golf course deal by May 1.

The issue arose a couple of months ago when Browne and Gallagher expressed interest in buying the ailing golf club and asked the city to reconsider the water rate.

Chamisa currently gets water from the city for 47 cents per 1,000 gallons under a contract due to expire in June. The rate will jump to $3.28 per 1,000 gallons on July 1 under a pricing schedule the council approved last year. Gallagher and Browne have said they couldn’t make Chamisa economically viable at that rate.

They have asked the city to consider setting the rate at 20 percent of the potable irrigation rate, or $1.09 per 1,000 gallons, and keeping it at that percentage as potable irrigation rates increase.

City staff have proposed adjusting the rate to 30 percent of the potable irrigation rate, saying this would cover capital and operational costs associated with supplying the water. Chamisa and Vista Verde Memorial Park are the only reuse customers at present, but staffers have said the city expects some new developments, city parks and schools may use it in future.

Public Works Director Scott Sensanbaugher has said he wants to set a rate that will apply to all customers, not provide a special deal for the golf course.

Wilkins has questioned whether selling the treated wastewater to customers like Chamisa may expose the city to greater future costs. The city pumps water from an underground aquifer under permits from the Office of the State Engineer. The permits require the city to return a percentage of the pumped water to the river. If the amount returned falls below a set percentage, the permit requires the city to buy additional water rights, Wilkins has said. He believes that could be more costly than what the city would get from selling water to reuse customers.

The well Wilkins proposed selling to Chamisa is off Broadmoor on club property. The city plans to discontinue using it because of technical problems. Browne has also said there are two unused wells on the course that he would consider developing if the city wouldn’t budge on the current water rate.

Wilkins has suggested Chamisa could lease water rights from the city until it could get a well functioning.