The Rio Grande runs through three states, and all along the way communities use the river’s waters for drinking, crop irrigation, and for Native American religious ceremonies. But with New Mexico’s biggest urban centers and military bases—and the substantial pollution they generate—near to the riverbanks, how safe is the Rio Grande for people and wildlife?
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority announced Wednesday that it’s building more backup safety systems at the wastewater treatment plant following a massive spill of partially treated sewage into the Rio Grande.
Albuquerque’s wastewater treatment plant spilled nearly 6 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the Rio Grande last Friday. Public Health New Mexico’s Ed Williams reports there was an equipment failure at one of the plant’s pumping facilities.
Officials with the Southside Wastewater Reclamation Plant say there was a spike in power during last week’s heavy snowstorm. That power spike disabled a pump station.
Plant Operations Manager Charles Leder says backup systems should have protected the facility from power fluctuations.
Businesses, military bases and city utilities have dozens of permits to release pollution into the Rio Grande watershed. Albuquerque’s wastewater treatment plant is one of the biggest sources of discharges into the river.
The plant has had trouble with regulators and neighboring communities in the past, but they’re making some headway.
On a recent sunny day in Albuquerque’s South Valley, water utility workers bent over a grate taking readings of the city’s treated wastewater as it rushes from the Southside Water Reclamation Plant into the Rio Grande.
Editor's Note: After we published this story, a spokesperson for Kirtland Air Force Base wrote with a series of objections to the story. Kirtland did not allege any factual inaccuracy in our story but we did make a change to reflect that Kirtland's lead discharges into the Rio Grande watershed are not in violation of environmental laws. You can read all of their objections and our responses here.
The city is spending $61,000 to replace an old parking lot at Pino Yards, a municipal maintenance and fueling facility. The project is part of a settlement with the EPA, coming after toxic runoff from the site drained into the Rio Grande, resulting in violations of the Clean Water Act.
A legal battle over water in the lower Rio Grande has New Mexico accusing the federal government of trying to take control of the state’s groundwater.
In a filing in the Third District Court in Las Cruces recently, the Bureau of Reclamation said it should be able to pump groundwater when it needs to deliver water in the Rio Grande to downstream users, such as farmers.
That raised the hackles of New Mexico state legislators, and others, including the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer. That office controls the state’s groundwater.
A study by the federal government shows that New Mexico is expected to see its population that uses the Colorado River Basin for water grow from nearly 1.5 million people today to between 2 million and 3 million by 2060.
That's according to the latest data from a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study.
The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/OhHnQI) that New Mexico and the other states that depend on the Colorado River Basin for water face a growing gap between how much water nature provides and how much people want to use.
The monsoon rains arrived this month, but it’s still hot and dry in New Mexico.
The ongoing drought is placing stress on the state’s rivers and streams, including the Rio Grande. And while cities and farmers still receive their shares of water, each summer, one user gets left out—the Rio Grande itself. Like it has every summer for the past decade, the Rio Grande downstream of Albuquerque is drying.
The water utility in Albuquerque inadvertently diverted farmers' irrigation water from the Rio Grande for more than a week in late June and used it for the city's drinking water supplies.
The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/MXVOs1) that John Stomp, chief operating officer of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility, acknowledged the improper diversions and agreed to pay back the farmers.