Region looks to the future in water plan update

Hannah Grover
Manager Bob Fredriksen gives a tour Feb. 19 of Water Treatment Plant No. 1 in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – Updating a water plan from 2003 could help local municipalities and other water users plan for the future and secure funding for projects, according to Teresa Brevick, the Bloomfield projects manager and a member of the San Juan Basin Regional Water Planning Steering Committee.

The committee has been working for the last couple of years to identify and determine strategies to address future water needs, manage water resources, and reconcile gaps between supply and demand.

The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission divides the state into 16 planning regions, which are all updating their plans. One reason behind the update is to ensure all 16 regions are using the same criteria and guidelines.

Melissa Dosher, a spokeswoman from the Interstate Stream Commission, said in an emailed statement that water plans should be updated every five years. But many of the regional plans, including the San Juan Basin plan, have not been updated, she said.

"The severe drought in 2013 created significant concern over water supplies everywhere in New Mexico, and the Legislature appropriated funding to update all the water plans — the 16 regional plans, plus the state water plan," Dosher said.

The San Juan Basin region has released its draft plan and is asking for comments. The public has until Friday to submit comments, which can be emailed to sjwcoffice@sjwc.org. The steering committee will discuss comments during a meeting from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the San Juan Water Commission building, 7450 E. Main St. in Farmington.

The regional water plans will be integrated into a state water plan.

"The regional plans are building blocks of the state water plan," Dosher said.

One way the regional plan could help water users is through a list of projects, programs and policies compiled by the steering committee. One of these projects is a proposed new wastewater treatment plant for Bloomfield, which could cost between $19 million and $23 million, according to the draft plan.

The plan states that the existing plant shows signs of structural failure due to age and improper construction. The plant's life could be extended another eight years through about $2 million in repairs.

Brevick said the updated water plan could help the city find funds for the project by demonstrating that it has gone through an extensive planning process and that the project is viable.

Another project that is on the list is connecting Flora Vista to the Farmington sewer system. The project received partial funding through capital outlay money this year. Currently, Flora Vista residents have septic systems, which have been identified as possible sources of river contamination.

“Our whole objective is to ensure safe and reliable drinking water,” Brevick said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.