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Meeting the people at water plant

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By The Staff

Without water, there would be no culture, society and economy. Our planet, like our bodies, is 70 percent water, and less than 3/100 of Earth’s water is fresh water, but current drinkable water supplies remain imperiled by pollution and increased demand.

Today, fresh water is “the new gold of the future,” the team at our water treatment plant would suggest.

These Las Vegans recall a time when winter snows and seasonal rains were aplenty, rivers always full, vegetation abundant. Migrating birds would land on marshes near Harris Road.

There were no Stage 2 water restrictions.

A prolonged drought period grips the Southwest, and we witness parched meadows, struggling plant life and an overallocated Gallinas River.

Current water supplies, even at peak, cannot sustain dramatic economic and population growth in Meadow City and its surroundings.

Every day we wake up, shower, clean, rinse, flush, splash, spray, wash and drink. Who is aware, when we twist the faucet, there is a dedicated team of specialists, doing its utmost to assure our water is clear, safe and tastes good?

As we use and take a most precious resource for granted, our water purification team of five employees daily undertakes a variety of tasks at the lab, the operations plant and the field. Acutely aware of the finished product they must fashion, their minds are preoccupied with satisfying the end user through a precise balancing act of mechanics, weather, water flow and storage, math and chemistry, supply and demand.

“It sometimes keeps me up at night,” Ed Saavedra, a Level 4 operator, says of the delicate way multiple problems must be solved daily to assure water runs smoothly.

A maze of pipes, meters, valves, faucets, gears and moving water produces a perpetual hum at the plant, and it is the responsibility of Don Cole, a plant mechanic, to keep the operation singing.

Bernadette Gold, previously a consumption clerk tracking water usage, now works as a lab technician, taking water samples, running them through a series of tests to make certain our water is free of harmful substances. She is learning a broad range of skills from her co-workers to reach Level 1.

“We all get along well, really enthusiastic, willing to help each other, share knowledge,” Gold says of her team.

If you are Jerry Aguilar, you pack a great deal of knowledge about water, know the system inside and out, and you will retire in a year. You are a Level 4 operator and you had yearly hours of recertification training. Moreover, your largest concern is to qualify employees to assure all of them can run the system.

Ramon Vialpando, another Level 4 operator producing quality water for residents of Las Vegas, began at the bottom. He will cover the well-defined trail blazed by Aguilar and Saavedra, due to retire in two years.

Level 4 operators are hard to come by in New Mexico. Presently, our city needs four Level 4, state-certified operators. Can this coming gap be filled in time to guarantee us safe drinking water in the distant future?

Our prized purveyors of great quality water share a larger, community-world view: Fresh water is too precious to take for granted, we must all be conserving in our own usage, and we must educate our youth about the immeasurable value of a precious local resource.

Ed Saavedra, water catchment barrels at his residence, welcomes school groups, adult groups or any interested persons to arrange a tour of the treatment plant.

The team is eager to impart knowledge and expertise to the broader world about our drinking water from source to distribution to discharge. They aim to help our community use water wisely.