Officials: Portales participation needed for Ute Water Project

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

City officials say even with recent additions to the city’s water well field, Portales’ participation in the Ute Water Project is necessary to ensure the city’s future water needs are fulfilled.

Portales Public Works Director John DeSha says the city’s well field, located on N.M. 202, remains in good service today. Six wells were added to the Los Lomas section of the field recently and DeSha says the city is producing an average of 4 million gallons of water daily. But it won’t be enough alone to supply the city in the years to come.

“The Ute Lake Water Project is necessary to augment our water supply,” says DeSha. “The (Ogallala) aquifer is declining and is not being recharged. This process is referred to as mining. An alternate source is needed in order to ensure the availability of potable water for our citizens.”

DeSha says the program for rehabilitation of the existing wells continues. This process involves resizing pumps, cleaning and test pumping each well.

“We are constantly monitoring the well field for problems and we address any problems immediately,” DeSha said.

With the additional wells, DeSha said Portales residents will still be asked to follow the voluntary watering schedule created by the city because water conservation, especially from citizens, is an additional tool necessary to sustain the city’s water supply.

Portales Mayor Sharon King says because Portales sits on the edge of the Ogallala Aquifer, a shallow end compared to the portion under Texas, the city has a higher need for the project.

“One thing we have to remember, even when we get the pipeline in, our allocation still doesn’t meet our total need,” King said. “We’ll need water from our wells just to meet our total need.”

King says the well field pumps 4,300 acre feet per year and the city’s allocation from the pipeline project would be about 75 percent of the city’s normal use.

“We’ll have to have the wells to provide our other 25 percent regardless,” King said.

The Portales City Council recently approved an application for a $27 million loan to reconstruct an outdated wastewater treatment plant. DeSha and King say the new plant will help extend the life of the well field through reusing water.

DeSha said he expects 25 percent of water pumped from the city’s well field to be reused for irrigation of the city’s parks and schools with the proposed plant.

“Our new plant will have enough effluent water that our plan is to pipe it back in town and water the parks, schools and the country club,” King said. “Reusing that water would save us an awful lot of water a year. Really over time, we can make that water clean enough to be used in our homes. I think that’s something all communities in the West are going to have to be looking at soon.”

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