Las Vegas, New Mexico, water crisis reaches climax as officials test new water sources

Mountainsides around Las Vegas, New Mexico were scorched by heavy snow. Biggest wildfires in the state More than 340,000 acres were burned on record this spring.Then I got extremely wet rainy season It brought a fair amount of precipitation in the summer. This is usually drought-stricken westbut instead Disaster at the time of disaster The rainfall washed charred debris into the local water system.

Currently, one of the city’s two reservoirs is filled with contaminated water that the current filtration system cannot handle. It is also a health risk. Carcinogenicity can occur when high levels of chlorine and carbon used to treat water react.

“We need to remove the carbon from the water before we can add any disinfection,” Las Vegas Utilities Director Maria Gilvary told residents at a recent forum.

With no time left to secure a new clean water source, city officials plan to test and pre-treat water from a nearby lake this weekend.

“Our fingers are crossed,” Las Vegas Mayor Rui Trujillo told CNN, adding that “tests determine the quality of the water that goes into one of the reservoirs.”

It may take several days to complete testing and preprocessing. Gilvarry told his CNN that finding the right levels of chemicals that are good for drinking water was the key, but not enough to create carcinogenic byproducts in the supply.

If the quality of the new water source is good enough to pass through the city’s water infrastructure, you can purchase several more months of water. Officials believe this is enough time to install another treatment system that can treat the sediment-laden water. to the second, currently unusable reservoir. If not, city and state officials may have to implement boiling orders or take other steps to ensure clean water. But it’s too early to tell what those actions are, Gilbert said.

This is a particularly frustrating situation considering how good the monsoon season has been this year.

“After the biggest fire in the state’s history, we had probably the best monsoon season in 14 years,” Trujillo told CNN. We couldn’t use the water coming down.”

Giant Trees, Small Particles

The western megafires don’t just burn trees and shrubs. Large-scale, high-temperature fires can completely change soil composition, making it less stable, more susceptible to erosion, and therefore more likely to flow into water systems.

In the case of Las Vegas, the combination of massive burn scars from the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak fires and heavy monsoon rains dropped thousands of acres of ash and debris into the Galinas River watershed.

When erosion occurred, it posed a double threat to the city’s water supply. One was that trees and rocks could fall into the river and damage water infrastructure. Another is that ash sludge can contaminate the water itself.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has built a debris catchment net that prevents damage to the water infrastructure itself, said Army Colonel Capt. Robert Zebrowski.

The Calf Canyon/Hermit's Peak fire devoured hundreds of thousands of acres near Las Vegas, New Mexico earlier this summer.

However, controlling smaller particles is much more difficult.

The Army installed wattles, mesh nets filled with hay, along the watershed to try to catch the ash sludge before it flooded the water system. He said that the success in slowing down the contamination did not solve the problem.

“There is no way to stop all the ash from getting everywhere,” Zebrowski added.

Gilvarry says that even if we had a clean backup source, there would still be some sediment in drinking water for the next decade.

live on less

With fewer days of potable water still available in Las Vegas, residents are living on less and less water.

“It’s very important at the moment. We’re doing everything we can,” Trujillo said, adding that citizens should reduce their water usage to 44 gallons per person per day, saving as much water as possible. He added that he was asked to

This collective protection bought Las Vegas more time. Gilvarry told his CNN that city officials have allowed the uncontaminated reservoir to expand. This is about a week longer than previous estimates.

Bradner Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to the City of Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Las Vegas has been open for drought restrictions since before wildfires struck earlier this year, asking residents not to fill pools, wash cars or water lawns. . However, the fire and its aftermath put the water situation in jeopardy.

Trujillo said the community remains strong and united even in the face of an incredibly difficult year.

“The people in this area are very strong and very supportive,” he said, adding that residents were “very concerned.”

While state and federal funding has allowed communities to have at least temporary water treatment systems, Las Vegas has been forced to replace its current water treatment facilities with modern infrastructure to pre-treat water. needs more funding. Trujillo hopes that immediate crises can help spur long-term solutions.

“The silver lining for me is that the most permanent solution to this is to replace the water treatment plant and improve some of the infrastructure,” he said. But now I get it.”


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