City officials share proposals for meeting Portales’ future water needs

By Jared Tucker: PNT staff writer

The expansion of Cannon AFB and the city budget were discussed during Tuesday’s chat with city officials, but water issues flooded most of the meeting.

City officials shared with citizens several proposals to address the city’s long-term water supply needs.

Portales Mayor Sharon King said Portales is currently self sufficient because the city owns its water.

“We are in a great position right now,” said King.

Proposals drafted by City Manager Tom Howell and presented included:

• Reuse water.

The plan is an option if a waste water treatment plant is built. Cost of a treatment plant is estimated between $16-$20 million.

This plan includes several pipelines that would be installed to different areas of the city, at an additional $4 to $5 million each.

• Recharge city wells. This involves channeling reclaimed water to be treated to Class 1A through a surface treatment plant, then injecting it into the groundwater aquifer.

This water would be pumped out of wells, disinfected, and introduced to the city’s potable water distribution system. The estimated cost is $18.6 million.

King said the city council is very interested in the Ute Lake water project, but even that option has its drawbacks. She said right now water is cheap and the Ute Project would increase water rates from 90 cents per thousand gallons to more than $3.50 per thousand gallons by the year 2019.

King said the biggest benefit of the Ute Project is consistency in the water supply. King said the state has been monitoring Ute Reservoir for more than 40 years, and “it has never fallen below what it would take to support the project,” she said.

The Ute Project has been approved by the federal government, but the funds have not yet been distributed, King added.

Howell said the Ute Project would cost $500 million and all communities who receive water from the project would pay a combined $50 million of that cost.

Col. Steven Kimball, Mission Group Support Commander at Cannon AFB was in attendance to share current and future plans for the expansion of the air base. Kimball said Cannon has built a new flight simulator, recently broken ground on a new child care facility, and is planning for new recreation facilities for residential expansion.

King said she wanted citizens to know the city’s budget is “in good shape,” due to careful and frugal spending.