Ute Commission focused on water conservation

By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico

The Ute Reservoir Water Commission plans to consider different approaches to conserving water in droughts to keep Ute Lake’s water level from dropping to the point communities are no longer allowed to withdraw water.

After discussing the value of planning for droughts at their meeting Thursday in Portales, commissioners asked engineers to present different scenarios of how much to conserve and when to begin saving water.

Mark Murphy, member of the Ute Lake Reservoir Advisory Group and an Interstate Stream Commission employee, said the advisory group had been discussing recreational use of the lake.

“The main concern being recreational use of the reservoir is affected in large part by the level of the lake,” he said.

Murphy said protecting water levels in case of a drought was beneficial to all entities.

He suggested the commission adopt a management strategy in which municipalities switched from using surface water to pumping groundwater when a drought reached a yet-to-be-determined level.

Communities without wells could buy groundwater from those that do, Murphy said.

Greg B. Gates, senior water resources engineer with CH2M Hill, said drought management allows planners to think ahead so they don’t drain the reservoir to the minimum level, at which no one can take more water out of the lake.