Residents urged to limit water use

New Mexico-American Water Co. is asking residents to cut back on watering their lawns and other outdoor water use. Photo by Eric Kluth.

By Jack King

Clovis’ water supplier is asking residents not to water their lawns or wash their cars for two days and to reduce water use through August.
Water storage tanks in Clovis are low and New Mexico-American Water Co. is urging residents to cut back on water use until they fill up again, said Kathy Wright, vice president of New Mexico-American Water.
City officials have not called for mandatory use restrictions, though they’re cutting back on watering at city-owned properties. The city, with New Mexico-American Water, has called a press conference for 9 a.m. today to discuss the low water storage problem. The press conference, which is open to the public, will be held at Bert Cabiness City Government Center, 321 Connelly St.
Since July 9, New Mexico-American Water has been distributing between 11 million and 12 million gallons of water a day. The company’s wells only pump 10.5 million to 11 million gallons of water a day from the ground, said Jim Bonner, operations manager for New Mexico-American Water.
In addition, one of New Mexico-American’s wells has been out of commission for a week and the city has been without rain in July. The combination of all these things has led to a situation where the company’s storage tanks are only half full, Wright said.
Mayor David Lansford said Clovis is not suffering from a water shortage.
“The water is there, but the infrastructure to pump it out quick enough isn’t there,” he said. “Right now the community is using four times as much water as it uses (in the winter) because of outside water use,” he said.
“Also, more people are staying in our motels and a lot of construction is going on. We’re asking people to be conservative in their water use for the next few days to give the storage tanks a chance to fill back up,” he said.
Bonner said dry weather is the most important factor in the emergency. In July of last year there were only five days when the company distributed 11 million gallons of water in a day, he said.
“Last year in July our records show we had 1.88 inches of rainfall. This year we’ve had none in July,” Bonner said.
“If we get one good rain, half an inch, people wouldn’t have to use so much water and it will reduce demand on the system, Bonner said.
To improve its supply, New Mexico-American will add one 250-gallon-a-minute well in the next two weeks and plans to add two more wells by next summer. It also will build additional storage tanks in the next one or two years, Wright said.
But, she said, there are some significant long-term concerns.
New Mexico-American Water’s wells pump less water per well than they did five years ago because of less water in this part of the Ogallala Aquifer, the region’s underground water supply. Wells that pumped 800 gallons a minute five years ago pump 350 gallons a minute today, she said.
The water table in New Mexico-American’s service area dropped nine feet in 2002, compared to an average drop of between three and four feet per year in recent years, she said.
The water table probably will continue to fall, and each well pump less water, because this part of the Ogallala Aquifer does not recharge itself, Wright said.
Roy Cruz, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey’s New Mexico ground water data program, said a monitored well in southeast Curry County showed an average water table drop of six feet a year between January 1997 and January 2002. A well in the northeast part of Roosevelt County showed an average drop of between 5 1/2 and six feet in the same period, he said.
By contrast, a monitored well in the Portales area showed a decline of only half a foot a year, he said.
“There is a lot more farming near the state line and the water levels are declining more rapidly there, especially in the dry weather,” Cruz said.