In the coming weeks New Mexico American Water is expanding our annual conservation campaign to discuss the water supply challenges we face and opportunities we have to secure a reliable supply of water to ensure that Clovis and all of eastern New Mexico thrives in the coming decades.
All of the water we supply in Clovis is drawn from the Ogallala Aquifer; a large but shallow underground aquifer that encompasses approximately 174,000 square miles and extends into eight states.
In New Mexico the Ogallala aquifer extends mainly into Curry, Roosevelt, and Lea Counties and in most of Curry County the Ogallala Aquifer extends to approximately 380 feet below the land surface.
The depth to groundwater in the Curry County area was approximately 165 feet below land surface in 1954. Today the depth to groundwater in Curry County is approximately 320 feet. That means 155 vertical feet of water have been used in 55 years and there are about 60 vertical feet remaining.
If one visualizes the Ogallala as a wide shallow dinner plate filled with water, Clovis’ location would be along the side of the plate, close to the top rim. As water is removed from the plate, the water recedes from the rim. This is basically what is happening to the aquifer below Clovis.
One way of measuring the impact of water levels in Clovis is to consider this: It currently takes 58 wells to produce the water needed for homes and businesses. In 2000, we could produce enough water for all of Clovis with just 28 wells.
An analogy would be if twice as many cows were required to make a gallon of milk. There would need to be twice as much feed, twice as many barns and twice as many workers — which inevitably results in higher prices for the consumer.
Conservation alone will not stabilize water supplies for Clovis. Ninety percent or more of the water drawn from the Ogallala in our area is used by agriculture. But we can't blame farmers for the depletion of the aquifer. In fact, even if all the farmers, ranchers, water utilities and other well users in Roosevelt and Curry counties stopped using water from the Ogallala basin, it’s likely that water levels would continue to drop. That’s due to our location on the edge of the 174,000- square-mile aquifer.
Conservation will buy us more time to diversify our water supplies and it has other important benefits. During the hottest days of the year, consumer demand peaks and water use in Clovis is approximately twice as high as on average days.
Working together to reduce peak demand through rebates, programs and public awareness campaigns reduces the likelihood that water restrictions will be needed during peak-demand periods and reduces the investments needed in new wells to meet peak demand.
In the coming years we must reduce our reliance on the Ogallala by diversifying our sources of supply. There are two options on the table at this time.
• The city of Clovis and other government agencies in Southeastern New Mexico own water rights for water from the Ute Reservoir, approximately 80 miles to the north of Clovis. Planning is under way to build a pipeline to carry this water to the Clovis area.
Surface water is considered a renewable resource and provides the possibility of a dependable long term supply for Clovis; however, building a pipeline is expensive and the timeframe for completion of the project is 10 to 15 years.
Local, state, and federal officials are working with New Mexico American Water and other area water providers to secure funding for a pipeline project.
• Another option involves a different groundwater resource. Below the Ogallala Aquifer lies another, older aquifer — the Lower Dockum. Little is known about the amount and quality of this aquifer because few, if any, wells in the region have been tapped into it.
New Mexico American Water currently has an application before the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to approve funding to drill a test well into this aquifer to learn more about its potential as a future source of water for Clovis.
All of us here at New Mexico American Water are planning for tomorrow. As a customer, you can do your part by following the odd-even watering schedule, using water efficient fixtures in your home and garden and taking advantage of our rebate programs to start conserving today.
Kathy Wright is vice president of New Mexico American Water. Evan Jacobs is external affairs manager for NMAW. Contact them at 763-5538 or by e-mail: