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Committee discusses benefits of water security study

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Aron Balock, Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District superintendent, talks Monday about water levels in the region during the City Council Infrastructure Committee’s meeting. The committee discussed the possibility of the city having a water security report conducted. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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The last time the city of Roswell had a study done on its water rights was 30 years ago, and staff and council members agreed it’s time for an update.

The City Council’s Infrastructure Committee took no action Monday toward having a study conducted either in-house or by an outside company, but agreed to have City Engineer Louis Najar look further into the process and return to the committee in June with ideas about how to proceed.

Committee members discussed with Najar — and two water experts he introduced — the importance of having an assessment of the city’s water rights and having conservation plans, especially in light of a resolution last month by the Carlsbad Irrigation District.

The CID requested the Office of the State Engineer administer Pecos River waters according to priority rights in its March 19 resolution. If the state engineer agrees, members of the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District in Chaves and Eddy counties would have to reduce water usage or refrain from using allowed water rights until the CID obtains all of the water it is legally allowed to use for the year.

Committee chairman Jacob Roebuck said the CID’s priority call isn’t the only reason the city should conduct the study.

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“Obviously this call brought this to the surface, so to speak,” Roebuck said. “But as we’re planning for the future of our community we want to make sure we are in a good spot,” he said.

He said the report would have two functions — number one, giving the city the ability to communicate to the public that the water supply is safe for long and short terms. The second part would be to evaluate what the city needs to do to better manage its water resources.

The city’s water rights, most of which date to the early to mid-1900s according to a summary provided to committee members, are junior to those of the CID, said Chris Cortez, operations manager of Atkins Engineering. The firm conducted the city’s previous water rights study in 1991.

But he and Aron Balock, superintendent of the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District, said it’s not always as simple as who was first in determining priority rights.

“It becomes much more complicated when we have a system like we have. We have a very dynamic and well-studied and still not completely understood system here in the basin that involves our artesian aquifer and our shallow aquifers,” he said.

Cortez said a study could include not only those “paper” water rights, but also the physical infrastructure for water in the city and conservation plans.

Committee member George Peterson said a plan should also address the waste of water in the city and be proactive about the potential of contamination in city water wells.

Utility Director Lorenzo Sanchez said his department is working on a water conservation plan that should be ready to take to the City Council this summer. It will propose some changes in city code and provide for enforcement against wasting of water, he said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.