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Gila/San Francisco Water Commission hears another presentation

Editor's Note: This is the second and final part of the report on the Gila/San Francisco Water Commission meeting held Tuesday, Jan.15, in Silver City.

The Gila/San Francisco Water Commission members, who represent various governmental entities in the four-county area of Grant, Luna, Catron and Hidalgo, heard reports on the Arizona Water Settlements Act planning process, which has been taken over by the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission.

The third presentation addressed Mimbres Valley proposals being evaluated by the ISC.

Helen Sobien, ISC engineer, said four projects are being studied, from Silver City to Deming.

The city of Bayard has been improving its regional wastewater treatment plant, but the effluent from the plant is being dumped on mine tailings. The town is asking for funding for a 6,500-foot pipeline and 60 feet of lift to use the effluent to water sports fields in Bayard.

Silver City wants to take the same effluent, not only to Bayard, but also to Santa Clara or Fort Bayard or a reservoir, which would also recharge the Santa Clara well fields and be used to water fields and the Bayard cemetery. The distance would be four to six miles.

Deming reuses its effluent from the country club pond into town for watering fields.

The Grant County Water Commission proposal is to receive effluent dump credit and at the airport to develop a well field to serve Hurley. It will require 16 miles of pipe and 600 feet of lift.

Bayard is asking for $4 million for its project and Silver City, $11 million.

Sobien said, if one compares the Silver City and Bayard projects, the effluent comes from the same wastewater treatment plant.

The County Water Commission is asking for $20 million and Deming, for effluent reuse, $3.5 million.

The ISC has asked for further assessment on these projects and engineering firms have been hired.

"Our goal is to provide apples-to-apples comparisons," Sobien said.

Tom Bates, newly elected GSFWC chairman, said that Tink Jackson, Office of the State Engineer District III supervisor, had not seen the application requesting additional water rights to the airport area.

Santa Clara Mayor Buach said he believed Bayard was looking at a small percentage of the effluent to water the ballfields. "Santa Clara wants the reservoir for recreation and to recharge our aquifer."

Donnie Stailey, representing the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission, asked if the purpose of the four projects was additional water or what.

Sobien said primarily the Bayard proposal was for municipal use; the Silver City and Grant County projects for recreation and reuse; and Deming to use less fresh water and reuse the effluent because the town has been buying up agricultural water rights for municipal uses.

Vance Lee, representing Hidalgo County and chairman until the next meeting when Bates will take over the position, asked if any bills would be brought to the Legislature on regional water plans.

Gerald Schultz, representing New Mexico resource, conservation and development activities, said he attended a New Mexico Water Dialogue meeting, where it was suggested that a bill be put through to designate $400,000 a year for the first four years to do four regional plans each year and then the fifth year the funding would be for developing the state plan.

ISC Deputy Director Craig Roepke said he and Sobien had to get back to Santa Fe. "We want you to coordinate with the ISC, so we can include you in our presentation at the Legislature."

Schultz, during public comment read notes of meetings he had attended, including the New Mexico Association of RC&D councils. One of the presentations had addressed the many decades of pumping ground water for agricultural uses, and the assessment that the geology consisted of features, including folds and faults, which could affect groundwater movement.

His second item was to discuss the report reviews and other items he has posted to the nmawsa.org website. He addressed his comments to the TV-viewing audience on how to navigate the site. He said items he and other people have written can be accessed by scrolling and comments could be made.

Schultz also attended a meeting of the Great Basin Anthropological Association at Lake Tahoe. He commented on how pristine the lake seems to be and the attention paid to keep it that way.

He cited a lawsuit filed by Texas against New Mexico, because of the low flow in the Rio Grande. Texas is entitled to a certain amount of the water and the state feels that groundwater pumping in New Mexico is affecting the flow. He compared it to the upper Missouri watersheds where, although a great deal of water is in storage on the Missouri above the Mississippi River, but is not transferred to the larger river, so its flow is low enough that barges have had to reduce loads. He opined that a lawsuit might follow.

M.H. "Dutch" Salmon said, regarding the pipeline size in the second presentation, the Bureau of Reclamation's study on diversions and storage, with gravity feed at 350 cubic feet a second, it would require a 10-foot diameter pipe at least.

He also corrected a comment made by Roepke in the first presentation, an overview of Interra's study on drip versus flood irrigation, when he said that drip irrigation evaporates more water. "Actually," Salmon said, "the crop transpires more water."

"I think the Interra presentation was arcane," Salmon said. "It would be better to take a whole field of 100 acres and irrigate with half flood and half drip with the same amount of water. I think you would have more bushes of beans on the drip side. The reason drip irrigation uses more water, is because farmers tend to put more water on the crops. I think drip is more efficient."

The next meeting is tentatively set at 1 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 19, at the Grant County Administration Center.

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