Bloomfield's water source needs repair, residents will have to pay

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
At left, Bloomfield Irrigation Ditch rider Harold Chamberlin works with Bloomfield Irrigation Ditch foreman Mike Meidinger as he operates a backhoe, Monday, May 16, 2016, at the Bloomfield Irrigation Ditch off County Road 4655 in Blanco.

BLOOMFIELD — Bloomfield will soon ask residents to pay more for water so the city can work with the Bloomfield Irrigation District to prevent the ditch from failing.

The details of how much more Bloomfield water customers will have to pay have not yet been finalized, however the city anticipates having an ordinance prepared for discussion at the next City Council meeting.

The city’s primary source of water is the ditch operated by the quasi-governmental Bloomfield Irrigation District. Officials say there are dozens of locations along the 47-mile ditch that could fail.

“For over 100 years, the city of Bloomfield’s been getting very cheap water,” said City Councilor Ken Hare during a council meeting Monday evening.

While Bloomfield has received inexpensive water, the ditch has not received the resources it has needed to keep up with repairs and maintenance, Hare said.

If the ditch fails, the city and its customers, including Blanco and Apple Orchard mutual domestic water user associations, have enough water storage to go four to six weeks with the help of the City of Aztec, according to Public Works Director Jason Thomas. Without Aztec’s help, Bloomfield would run out of water within two weeks.

Ditch company raised rates, sparking conflict with city

Bloomfield Irrigation District raised rates a couple years ago to pay for repairs and maintenance on the ditch. The city of Bloomfield protested the rate increase and stated the city’s contract locked the rate at seven cents for every thousand gallons delivered. Bloomfield Irrigation District asked for 50 cents for every thousand gallons delivered.

That contract is scheduled to expire next year, and the city has agreed to start paying more for water deliveries. However, Bloomfield officials say partnering with the ditch company and offering services has reduced the amount the city will have to pay.

Thomas said the city will likely pay 25 cents for every thousand gallons of water delivered.

Blanco Flume among the areas of concern

The ditch dates back to the late 1800s. One of the primary areas of concern is the Blanco Flume, a 100-year-old feature that transports water over an arroyo in the community of Blanco.

The flume "serves 17,000 people and seven gas plants ... that’s not an easy thing to replace,” Hare said. “And it’s one of many repair issues that we’re going to have to work with BID on to ensure our source of drinking water.”

Bloomfield will do some work on that flume to temporarily address the problems. Meanwhile, the city and the ditch company have partnered to ask for $645,537 in capital outlay money from the state legislature to fix this flume.

Bloomfield's search for other water sources proves futile

Bloomfield has searched for years for a second source of drinking water to make the city less dependent on the ditch.

Thomas said Bloomfield has drilled 16 test wells to see if the city could pull water out from beneath the San Juan River. It has also examined two springs near Bloomfield that were too high in salt and manganese to use for drinking water.

While Bloomfield has a few other sites selected for test wells, it will likely stop the project and focus on improving a second source that pumps water from the San Juan River below Largo Wash.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at