New water system could provide park irrigation solution

Adrian Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

Carlsbad pumps millions of gallons of treated waste water into the Pecos River each day. 

The water, a precious commodity in the arid desert region flows via the river down to the Gulf of Mexico never to be seen again. 

But with a potential grant from the New Mexico Water Trust Board (WTB), the city is hoping to finish a long-standing project to create the infrastructure needed to reuse the effluent water in city parks. 

Effluent water is the result of treating sewage and other waste water produced by city residents.

"That water now just goes into the river, and the city doesn't get anything," said Luis Camero, the city's director of Engineering Services. "It's just released. That effluent, we want to reuse. We want to put it back in the city parks."

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But such an endeavor will cost millions in public dollars. 

The WTB did not send any funds to Carlsbad in fiscal year 2017, despite an identical request, and officials worried funding shortfalls in the state budget could prevent assistance next year as well. 

That all changed in recent months when the WTB announced it was able to provide funds to municipal water project across the state. 

The Carlsbad City Council authorized the application for a $2 million dollar grant aimed at paying for construction work needed for the fifth phase of the project. 

This phase would see the construction of two storage ponds with a capacity of 1 million gallons, and a pumping station at the Carlsbad Municipal Golf Course.

A new pipeline would also be added to the system to deliver the water water to city parks located along both banks of the Pecos River north of Greene Street and south of the railroad bridge.

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If funded, the city would receive $1.2 million, and a loan of $800,000. 

The total estimated cost for the current phase of the project, records show, was about $3 million. 

The city already uses effluent to irrigate the local golf course. And a storage tank was built nearby during previous stages of the project. 

The city's allotment is 300 acre feet per year of effluent, and most of it is used at the course. 

If the project can continue, the water will be pumped into city parks to irrigate the grass, and fill ponds. 

"This project is to take it a little further," Camero said. "We want to irrigate all the parks along the river. The effluent actually has more nutrients. The parks would look better than if we use regular city water."

City parks are irrigated with the same potable tap water residents drink. Camero hoped the drinking water can be conserved if it is replaced with effluent at the parks. 

"It's a big project," he said. "It has a lot of benefits. The city will be able to better conserve and monitor its water." 

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.