Socorro has plenty of water resources

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The Socorro City Council heard the city has plenty of water and is not likely to experience a water crisis like the one in Magdalena.

“Socorro right now has a lot of water. I mean, it’s hard to understand how a community could run out of water,” city water superintendent Lloyd Martinez said during his department report at the council’s regular meeting July 1.

“But if you look at the news, a lot of communities are having water problems, but Socorro’s not one of them,” he said.

Martinez said the city has three wells: Eagle Picher, Industrial and Evergreen. Evergreen is the newest well, having been drilled five years ago, and the most prolific, pumping 2,400 gallons per minute into the system.

Martinez said the city has two springs, Sedillo and Socorro springs, which average about 570 gallons per minute, 24 hours a day every day. He said the springs provide about half the amount of water the city uses in a day; the city uses about 1.4 million gallons of water per day during its heaviest usage periods, which are during the summer.

“The springs would have to go dry for the city of Socorro to run out of water,” Martinez said.

Martinez said the city’s storage tanks have a capacity of 2.734 million gallons, which is about three to five summer days’ worth of water.

Martinez said all the wells are drilled at different depths, and the pumps are placed at different depths.

“For instance, the Evergreen well is drilled at 1,200 feet deep, but the pump is actually set at 554 feet,” he said. Martinez explained technicians determine where the water quality is best in the well, and that is where the pump is set.

He explained static levels in the wells, saying the water sits at a certain level. When the pump kicks on there is draw down, meaning the water draws down a certain depth. That could be 10 or 20 feet. He said in the city’s wells, static levels have not changed. He said three years ago, Evergreen well’s static level was the same as when it was first drilled. Eagle Picher and Industrial wells’ static levels have also not changed.

Martinez said the city also has a lot of water rights it is not currently using. He said the city may want to consider leasing some of the water rights.

“Because if you don’t use them all, you could lose them,” Martinez said about the city’s water rights. “So the city’s really good with both water and the water rights.”

Mayor Ravi Bhasker said the city used to have a brown water problem, but then took one well offline — the School of Mines well. He said he hasn’t heard of any brown water complaints for four or five years since that well was taken offline.

“And that’s because of that Evergreen well,” Bhasker said. “That’s very, very good water — and I think the arsenic level there is very low.”

Bhasker said the city is concerned about the San Augustin Ranch LLC proposal to purchase the water rights to the aquifer beneath San Agustin Plains. He said that would eventually affect the city’s water sources.

“So we’re certainly against that,” Bhasker said of the proposal.

Bhasker added there is another water request much closer to the city — at the Kokopelli Ranch — which would affect the city’s water tremendously. He said the Kokopelli request has not been publicized very much, but the ranch is requesting permission to drill out a large amount of water.

Jay Santillanes, utilities division director, said the proposal would affect the large aquifer that supplies the city’s springs come out of. He explained the springs are the overflows from a large aquifer that goes all the way to beneath the San Agustin Plains. He said the other outflow from the large aquifer is by the San Mateo Mountains.

Councilor Peter Romero asked about New Mexico Tech’s wells. Martinez said the city supplies Tech’s drinking water, and the school uses the lake for irrigation purposes.

Bhasker added Tech is officially protesting the Kokopelli water request.

“Water is liquid gold,” Bhasker said. “Everybody wants to be able to drill water.

“And the guys from San Augustin are talking about a pipeline. What they’ll do if they do that … they’ll swap water. They’ll say they’re putting water into the river and then they’ll swap water somewhere else. And everybody wants to do that. We’re talking about thousands of acre-feet.”

Santillanes said the phenomenon is not unique to this area. He said there is “another grab” to run a pipeline from Santa Fe.

Bhasker said New Mexicans in the east part of the state claim that Texans are drilling at a slant into New Mexico aquifers.

 

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