For a sparsely attended meeting, several big issues were discussed Thursday in the City Council chambers about one of the city’s most vexing problems — water.
In a meeting dubbed, “Community Partnership Special Water Meeting” called by Mayor Tony Marquez, the city laid out exactly where it’s at and where it’s going, from conservation, to litigation, to a proposed new reservoir in Gallinas Canyon.
City Utilities Director George DuFour put to rest questions about two well fields south of town, Taylor and Milliken. Armed with a variety of geologic and water quality charts, Dufour concluded that the two adjacent aquifers were not connected; pumping of the Taylor Wells has a direct negative effect on domestic water wells in the area; and that the new, $3 million Taylor Well No. 7 has poor water quality. Poor enough that it would have to be diluted with eights parts of treated city water per unit of well water before it would meet government water quality standards, he said.
DuFour said the city would take a very cautious approach to further pumping of Taylor Wells and would continue its investigation of the better quality groundwater on Sandy Milliken’s property. Ken King, a resident in the Taylor Well area, asked the city to “stay or withdraw” its application for transfer of water rights to No. 7, which is now pending before the state engineer.
There were also signs that litigation between the city and local acequias may finally be coming to an end. City Councilman Andrew Feldman indicated for the city to resolve its water problems, it must “stop the litigation.”
Gabe Estrada, Joseph Padilla and William Gonzales, all members of the Rio de Las Gallinas Acequia Association, endorsed Feldman’s statement, referring to a theme earlier made by DuFour that water is “a community problem.” No formal commitment was made by the mayor to end the litigation, other than it would be one of the primary issues the city would soon address with the city attorney.
Las Vegas Community Water Board member Glenn Yocum spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting about various conservation practices and ordinances the city could employ.
Feldman responded that the city is working on several new conservation ordinances including one introduced to the council some time ago by the water board, regarding a revised pricing structure that would reward Las Vegas water customers for conservation, by lowering their water bills.
Feldman described a proposed 1,200 acre-foot storage reservoir in Gallinas Canyon, an idea that Gabe Estrada said first surfaced in 1958. Feldman said officials are in the earliest stages of discussion and that much more must be done to even determine project feasibility.
The proposed 240-foot tall hydroelectric dam would be upstream of Montezuma, near the city’s current diversion structure on the Gallinas. The reservoir would extend about two miles upstream to near Trout Springs, and would be wholly contained within 1,200 acres of city property on the river. Marquez and Feldman will brief the New Mexico congressional delegation, the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and the Army Corps of Engineers on this idea next week in Washington.
Marquez indicated in closing that if the city is to be successful in solving its water problem, there must be a partnership between all the stakeholders on the Gallinas.
William Gonzales suggested they all take a positive approach, and consider adopting a motto, “Si se puede,” or “Yes we can.”
Editor’s note: The writer, Frank Splendoria, is a member of the Las Vegas Community Water Board and a radio talk show host.