Dec 10, 2018

Albuquerque, N.M., Celebrates 10 Years of Surface Water Use

The city made the switch following depleting groundwater levels

City celebrates 10 years of surface water use over groundwater
City celebrates 10 years of surface water use over groundwater

On Dec. 5, Albuquerque, N.M., celebrated 10 years of surface water use. The city previously sourced drinking water from a shrinking aquifer. A $450 million solution decreased the city’s reliance on groundwater by 70%.

“The problem was that we found out that only about half of what we were pumping from the aquifers was being replenished by the river,” said John Stomp, COO of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, on the need for a change in water use. “Instead of them sort of being in equilibrium, the aquifer was dropping.”

The 110 acres water treatment plant that facilitated the switch to surface water has treated more than 137 million gal of Rio Grande River water in its decade in operation, as reported by the Albuquerque Journal.

“By diversifying Albuquerque’s water sources, we have improved the sustainability and resilience of our city at a time when climate change is creating increased risks,” said John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program. “To have the aquifer to back us up, it gives us a lot more flexibility to deal with risks.”

In addition to the surface water shift, the water authority now is considering an aquifer recharge well, which would pump excess treated water into the groundwater. The water authority aims to start pumping around 5 million gpd into the aquifer during the winter months when water demand is low.