Conservation critical

Jimmy Dominguez, greens superintendent for the Clovis Municipal Golf Course, hand waters a green Thursday at the course. Photo by Eric Kluth.

By Jack King

If Clovis residents don’t voluntarily reduce water consumption, they could face a water emergency in a week, city officials said Thursday at a press conference.
New Mexico-American Water officials announced Wednesday that since July 9 the company has been distributing between 1 million and 2.5 million gallons of water a day more than it has pumped from the ground. As a result, its storage tanks are about half full, and could get lower unless local users cooperate, they said.
Mayor David Lansford asked residents to stop all outside use of water through the weekend, then follow a list of conservative water use practices through August.
City Manager Raymond Mondragon said the city is asking for voluntary compliance, but will assess the effectiveness of the voluntary program next week. If New Mexico American’s storage tanks aren’t filling back up sufficiently, the City Commission will consider passing a water conservation ordinance immediately, he said.
New Mexico American Water vice president Kathy Wright said the emergency was caused by an especially long dry spell in July and growth in the company’s customer base.
City Commissioner Kevin Duncan emphasized at the press conference that New Mexico American Water has a to supply the city and support economic growth. The water storage emergency is a temporary infrastructure problem, he said.
Operations manager Jim Bonner said since January the company has added 120 customers in Clovis, 12 of whom are commercial users who use more and larger water connections. In comparison, the company added 100 customers, only three of whom were commercial users, in all of 2002.
New-Mexico American Water expects to have 250-gallon-a-minute well on line in two weeks. The company also plans to add four wells by end of the summer of 2004, plus two new storage tanks within two years, Bonner said.
But Wright said Wednesday that the water table fell 9 feet last year in New Mexico American Water’s service area and Bonner said because of the falling water table individual wells pump less water.
“We’re having to put that many more straws in the ground to get the same amount of water,” he said.
Lansford said it will be eight years before a system can be put in place to deliver surface water from Ute Lake, a longtime project of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority.
The city should maintain some water conservation measures from now on, he said.