City officials: Report confirms need for new water supply

Jared Tucker

The annual water report recently presented to the Portales City Council paints a gloomy picture for the area’s water supply.

According to the city’s water consultant, Charles Wilson, the High Plains Aquifer currently has a saturation thickness of 42 feet and is declining at a rate of 3.4 feet per year at the city’s primary well field.

The Sand Hill well field, the city’s supplemental supply, which only gets pumped during summer months, stands below 10 feet.

The report was given to the council Aug. 17.

“It’s not like we’re going to run out of water tomorrow, but I think we have to be ever-vigilant in looking for other (water) sources,” said Portales City Manager Tom Howell.

Portales Mayor Sharon King said the 2009 water report isn’t a surprise, it simply confirms what the city already knew, and that other water sources must be found.

“We need to get on it in a hurry,” King said.

Wilson told city council the current conservation methods in place are effective, and the average water use per person per day in 2009 was 175 gallons, a number that is considered good because it is below 200.

Howell said the city will be following a recommendation from Wilson to evenly distribute the amount each well pumps.

According to the report, the city’s Las Lomas groundwater reserve has an estimated 16-year additional water supply, and Wilson recommended the city continue well field expansion into that reserve.

Wilson also recommended the continued pursuit of the $500 million Ute Water Project, which he said Portales’ reserved share of that water will only equal two-thirds of the city’s annual demand.

Copies of the report are available at city hall.