Las Cruces Releases Detailed Water Plan

Las Cruces – The City of Las Cruces says it's working to help ensure that the community has ample water supplies for future growth.

On August 2nd, the Las Cruces City Council approved action that would allow for the condemnation of Moongate Water Company on the City's East Mesa. The action is a proactive effort to extend the life of the Jornada Basin, one of two underground water sources supplying the area. The Jornada Basin is a large, confined aquifer with minimal recharge. The other underground water source, the Mesilla Basin, is an aquifer that is recharged by the Rio Grande and therefore does not have the same limitations as the Jornada Basin.

Water level measurement data compiled by Las Cruces Utilities staff, in coordination with the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, indicate that the aquifer level in the Jornada Basin is generally dropping at a rate of four to five feet annually in some areas. Moongate Water Company's continued, cumulative pumping of the Jornada Basin, coupled with large water rights claims and Moongate Water Company's service territory within the city limits, will ultimately result in the future depletion of the aquifer. Consequently, several thousand East Mesa residents not connected to the City of Las Cruces distribution system may find themselves without a reliable source of water.

City of Las Cruces customers receive water not only from City-run wells on the East Mesa that draw from the Jornada Basin. They are connected by an elaborate water distribution system that will allow water from wells in the Mesilla Basin to supplement water from the Jornada Basin, thereby extending the life of the Jornada Basin. In addition, should the Jornada Basin water level drop below practical pumping levels, or water quality deteriorates, customers connected to the City of Las Cruces system can be supplied with water from wells in the Mesilla Basin.

More than one third of the City's water customers reside on the East Mesa, but the City's East Mesa wells produce less than one fifth of the City's total well production. The City has been pumping water from the Mesilla Basin to East Mesa customers for several decades, and now transfers roughly one billion gallons per year. The City's newly completed South Jornada water project will allow the City to serve additional East Mesa customers with renewable Mesilla Basin water, again extending the life of the Jornada Basin

The City's long-term plan is to utilize the Jornada Basin as a drought reserve, rather than a primary water source for growth in newly annexed areas of the East Mesa. The City's acquisition of the Moongate Water Company system through the use of eminent domain is ultimately a strategic attempt by the City of Las Cruces to combine the two largest East Mesa water systems into a single system that will extend the life of the Jornada Basin, and provide reliable service to all its customers.

The City of Las Cruces has invested heavily in infrastructure to provide continued and future water service to the East Mesa. Capital improvement projects associated with water use on the East Mesa for water sustainability include:

The Zone 1 Water Supply Project that includes two new East Mesa wells and more than seven miles of water line. At a cost of nearly $2.5 million, this project supplies water to the East Mesa and is ultimately planned to be used for rapid growth and dry years.

The new Zone 1 water tank is being planned that will store an additional two million gallons of water for the area. This will result in a total storage capacity of 12-million gallons on the East Mesa.

The South Jornada Water System Improvements Project: This includes three booster stations, more than six miles of transmission line, and a two million gallon water storage tank at a project cost of more than $10 Million. This project moves water from the Mesilla Basin to the East Mesa. Benefits include system redundancy, water capacity beyond the year 2025, as well as helping save the Jornada Basin for rapid growth and dry years.

The East Mesa Piezometer Nest: Completed at a cost of approximately $280,000, it is part of a well network that helps monitor the Jornada Basin. The City has spent more than $220,000 for monitoring services over the last two years, with $130,000 budgeted for fiscal year 2010.

The East Mesa Water Reclamation Facility will treat up to one million gallons of wastewater per day. The reclaimed water can be used to irrigate golf courses, medians, and parks and schools so pumping fresh water from the Jornada Basin can be reduced.

The near completion of a surface water feasibility study that will help the City plan for the combined use of surface water and ground water for its customers. This combined use will enable the City to use surface water during the irrigation season so that pumping on the East Mesa can be limited and saved for rapid growth and dry years.

In addition to infrastructure improvements, the City of Las Cruces is a good steward of water resources in the Jornada Basin.

The City's long term plan to utilize surface water with existing Rio Grande-connected ground-water rights in the Mesilla Basin will limit the pumping of ground water from the Jornada Basin to dry years when surface water is not available. This will help accommodate growth.

The City has a 40 year water development plan that includes the use of surface water, and is preparing a stand alone water conservation plan that will outline conservation measures the City will adopt to reduce total system water use to 180 gallons per capita per day (gpcd) in the next 20 years. The current program has reduced total system water use from 200 gpcd in 2005 to 190 gpcd as of 2008, which is a 5% decrease. Single family residential use has been reduced nearly 10% in the same time frame.

The City has the Jornada Basin Monitoring Program that monitors the water levels and water quality of the Jornada Basin for pumping effects.

The City is a member of the Lower Rio Grande Water Users Organization that obtained U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funds for projects such as the New Mexico Lower Rio Grande Regional Water Plan, and the Jornada Basin groundwater model update.

As a result of the City of Las Cruces' desire to protect and extend its water resources for decades to come, should the condemnation of the Moongate Water Company to accomplish this mission occur, a full appraisal of Moongate Water Company will be conducted, and the owner will be compensated fair market value for the company and all its assets.

City of Las Cruces reminds residents that summer water restrictions are currently in effect. Addresses ending in odd numbers may water outside vegetation on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Addresses ending in even numbers may water Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. No watering is allowed between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. No watering on Mondays.