By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer
The Clovis City Commission took the first step toward building a $16 million pipeline that will snake throughout the city, carrying recycled wastewater for irrigation and industrial use.
The Commission approved in its Sept. 20 meeting negotiations for the sale of water, which will be pumped from the Clovis Wastewater Treatment Plant through the city via an effluent pipeline. City officials say the pipeline would also be used to water city property, which will conserve about 670 million gallons of water a year.
“The priority consideration is to slow the decline of the water table,” City Manager Joe Thomas said.
Mayor Pro Tem and Water Policy Advisory board chairman Randal Crowder said two businesses, Clovis Ethanol and White Hat Energy, plus the Clovis Industrial Development Corp., have already expressed an interest in purchasing recycled water.
“(CIDC) wants us to be sure and get it to the Industrial park,” he said.
Crowder said the city has discussed water sales with the Clovis school system, the county and Clovis Community College.
“We need to get to a point where we negotiate a firm price,” he said. “That has not happened.”
The city paid about $300,000 for water last year, according to the city’s water conservation plan. The project could bring in about $2 million a year from water sales, according to an engineering review of the project.
Engineer Curtis McHaley, who works for the engineering firm CDM, said the project will recycle 60 percent of the 2.9 million gallons of water that goes to the plant daily. The water from the wastewater treatment plant currently goes to irrigating farmlands, he said.
McHaley said the city will use the non-potable, recycled water to irrigate landscapes and for dust control.
“The primary sites are generally the parks, the golf courses and the schools,” he said. “Right now it’s just limited to municipal and institutional use and industry as well.” Crowder said having an effluent pipeline would improve water conservation practices in Clovis and increase the city’s chance to build the Ute Pipeline, which would pipe drinking water from the Ute Reservoir near Logan to eight eastern New Mexico entities.
Thomas said the city needs to look for funding for the project before going any further. He said the city should cover most of the costs through grants and legislative funding before bonding out the project.
“Ultimately, I think the thought is probably the project will be bonded and the debt service from the bonds will be realized through resale of some of the effluent to some of the entities that might want to use if for irrigation,” he said.
A $3 million Army Corps of Engineers grant is available to the city for the project, McHaley said. State and federal legislators have given about $1.5 million to the project, according to Crowder. The city will also use the money it would save on water to fund the project, he said.
The construction of the pipeline will take about one year once a design is approved, McHaley said.
But as construction costs rise, Crowder said the city has to act quickly to start the project.
“Time is of the essence, you got to really press once you start one of these,” he said. “I hope that there’s enough funds gathered up and secured by spring time to go ahead and authorize the engineers to begin the serious engineering process of this.”