City holding workshop on water reuse

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

The city of Portales is exploring all options for effective water use — and reuse.

City council members will hold a 5 p.m. workshop today at city hall to explore water reuse and how it could apply to the city’s current wastewater plant and the one planned for two years down the road.

“We know we’re going to build a new wastewater treatment plant,” Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Miller said. “Learning about water reuse will help us design that effectively.

“Hopefully, some of the stuff we learn (today) can be incorporated into the planning and designs.”

The workshop is the fourth in a series, Mayor Orlando Ortega said, with a fifth on water desalination still to be scheduled.

“Our goal is to move forward very progressively on anything that deals with good practice of water,” Ortega said. “We’ve engaged in a pretty progressive conservation program. I’m excited to say we’re definitely doing a good thing with that.”

One such example of conservation includes voluntary limits of lawn watering three days per week, Miller said, with days determined by a residents’ house number.

Those measures have led to a 5.67 percent drop from 2007 water use, and a drop of 10.46 percent since 2005. The city uses anywhere between 3 million and 9 million gallons daily.

At the workshop, engineer Eddie Livingston of Alamogordo will discuss and take a tour of Portales’ existing wastewater treatment plant.

The biggest goal, Miller said, is to see how a future plant (or the current plant) could take advantage of effluent water.

“We probably have about a million gallons a day of wastewater,” Miller said. “Let’s talk about what we need to do … and the infrastructure needed to get that water back to town.”

Effluent water would primarily be used for watering what Livingston calls green space — city parks, golf courses, etc.

“That’s the first best use of the effluent, because it offsets use of potable water,” said Livingston, who worked on a similar water project with the city of Cloudcroft. “With today’s drought conditions, there’s not a reason I can think of to water a golf course with good drinking water.”

If there’s effluent water left over, a possible use could be indirect potable reuse.

“You start with effluent, but then you use advanced water treatment technologies to treat water to better than drinking water standards,” Livingston said. “Then you blend that with a natural water source, such as groundwater. That gets treated again, and it goes back into the potable water supply, either through ground water recharge or creating a lake.”

Ortega said the city is looking at long-term situations such as the Ute Water Project, but that’s at best a decade off with funding and construction issues.

“Our goal is for the Ute Pipeline project to happen, but we don’t know when that’s going to be,” Ortega said. “We’re going to look at everything.”