Official: Forty-year plan would help secure city’s water future

Kevin Wilson

A 40-year water plan set to come before the Clovis City Commission next week changes no city policy, but includes recommendations on how the city can make the best use of its current water rights.

But just by filing it, Commissioner Randy Crowder said, the plan secures some of the city’s water future.

“One of the big purposes is to protect the water rights we have,” Crowder said. “By state statute, we could lose those water rights. By filing this plan, we protect those rights.”

The plan, written by Daniel B. Stephens and Associates of Albuquerque, is set for adoption via resolution at the Feb. 23 commission meeting.

“Aquifer sustainability is a concern in Clovis,” the plan’s introduction notes. “While city water rights and existing infrastructure are adequate to meet both current and projected demand, groundwater levels have been declining for many years, and the Ogallala aquifer is not seen as a source of long-term sustainable supply for the city.”

The plan measures the city’s future water needs and current water rights.

In all, according to the plan, the city owns 13,967.437 acre-feet of irrigation-, municipal-, public utlity- and commercial-use water rights per year. Most is for irrigation (11,432.667 per year).

An acre-foot is a measurement of the water needed to create a body of water one foot deep across an entire acre. One acre foot is equivalent to 325,853 gallons.

The plan includes numerous information points about the city and water, including:

• The city’s ownership of 45 wells, 33 of them active.

• An estimate during the 2007 regional water plan that the city’s population could nearly double to 72,000 by the year 2050 — a figure Crowder said would be tough to use with any certainty.

• A comparison of water rates with similar-sized cities. When compared to Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Farmington, Hobbs, Rio Rancho and Roswell, Clovis has the second-highest commercial monthly charge ($24.02, assuming 6,000 gallons used), and is tied with Rio Rancho for the third-highest commercial charge ($21.54).

• Information on the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System and the effluent reuse project.

Nothing in the water plan would have a positive or negative impact on water rates, Crowder said.

The plan makes recommendations, which the city commission is under no obligation to adopt. Suggestions include hiring a staffer or designating a current one to serve as water conservation coordinator, develop a public education component for conservation goals and more aggressive conservation plans beyond the city’s drought management plan.

The water plan doesn’t reference private companies — including EPCOR, which purchased New Mexico American Water recently and took over as the city’s official water provider. Under NMAW, the company has offered rebate programs, including vouchers for low-flow appliances and lawn-to-xeriscape conversions.

“The one thing you don’t see in this plan,” Crowder said, “is all of the water conservation initiatives that are part of it.”