Commission nixes water runoff penalties

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

City Commissioner and Mayor Pro-Tem Randy Crowder feels the city needs to prove it’s serious about conserving water by imposing fines for fugitive water.

He believes the measure would also improve the city’s chances for acquiring federal funding for the Ute Water Pipeline project.

However, not enough of his fellow commissioners agreed.

Commissioners voted 4-2 against a proposal to draft an ordinance Tuesday that included fines of up to $100 against property owners who have water running from their properties or city streets.

Crowder said the Bureau of Reclamation would support the Ute pipeline project if the city would implement water conservation policies. The $432 million pipeline project proposes pumping water from the Ute Lake reservoir to eight eastern New Mexico entities.

Crowder, who also serves as chairman for the city’s water policy advisory board, said the proposal would be based on ordinances in Albuquerque and Alamogordo.

But commissioners wanted more information on the proposed ordinance before authorizing the city attorney to start drafting it.

City Commissioner Robert Sandoval said he was not in favor of drafting an ordinance he felt the city could not enforce. He asked Marcus Brice, the city’s code compliance director, if the city had the manpower to enforce a fugitive water ordinance.

Brice said he did not.

Crowder said enforcement could start with residents reporting to the city instances of fugitive water.

Sandoval said he wasn’t against the idea of the ordinance but he would prefer the city’s water policy advisory committee to glean more information such as how much water would constitute a fine.

“We need to know what we’re going to draft,” he said.

Crowder said after the meeting the ordinance could come up as a discussion item in future committee meetings, but he did not know if it would be brought up to the commission again.