Council members discuss city water use

Michellle Seeber

The average Portales resident uses 180 gallons of water each day without industrial use, a consultant hired by the city said Tuesday.
Charles Wilson, who conducted studies of water usage in Portales and where additional water supplies might be found, made the statement Tuesday during a presentation to the Portales City Council on the city’s Blackwater wells.
Wilson said that people who work with industries use 218 gallons of water per day.
The city’s main water source is the High Plains aquifer, which is being depleted an average of 3-to-6 feet of water per year, Wilson said.
Because of the sinking water table in the aquifer, the city-owned Blackwater wells are being used to provide additional water to the community.
However, he said, the levels in the Blackwater wells have steadily dropped during the last several decades.
Wilson attributed the reason for the drop in these water levels to the area receiving less than 16.8 inches of rainfall per year since 1996.
“Water use goes up as rainfall goes down,” Wilson said.
He recommended more water sources be found, because while the current sources of water are decreasing, Portales’ population is projected to increase.
Wilson recommended conservation of water and more sources be considered in addition to the Blackwater wells, including the Ute Water Project.
Conservation efforts by the city should include water audits and education outreach, he said.
Conservation efforts also should include “drought-resistant landscaping, universal water metering, leak detection and repair,” and improved irrigation for Portales parks, Wilson said.
In addition, he recommended new wells be added.
He said limestone beneath the city could provide a source of water but said this would be an expensive alternative because the limestone is 1/2 mile below the ground’s surface.
He listed San Andres limestone near Santa Rosa as a potential supplemental supply.
“Water recycling is another possible alternative,” Wilson said. “It could supply a fourth of the annual demand.”
After hearing Wilson’s report, the Portales City Council unanimously approved a $5,000 grant from the New Mexico Economic Development Department.
The grant will be used to develop a marketing strategy, including a market analysis of housing needs and economic development resources to entice possible new development and business ventures, City Manager Debra Lee said.
The city also authorized donation of vacation time by city employees to Charlie Smart, an employee of the Portales Police Department, who may need more time off than he is normally allotted.
The Main Street railroad crossing will be re-done by mid-July according to a letter received by the mayor.