Is There A County Water Utilty (CWU) in TRA’S Future??

The following information is provided by Adam Leigland, Director, County Public Works Department, March, 2014.

INTRODUCTION

Under the Aamodt Settlement Agreement, the County (with State assistance) must pay the marginal cost to provide a Regional Water System (RWS) infrastructure to non-Pueblo water users.  In most cases,  the marginal cost will be quite low because the Federal government is already paying the bulk of the cost to provide service to the Pueblo water users.  For this reason, the County contribution to the RWS will only be about 5% of the total bill.

However, there are certain areas that won’t benefit from this cost-sharing.  In these areas, including TRA, the State Highway 592 corridor and some neighborhoods north of Nambe, the County share would be 100% of the cost.  In 2006, when the first decisions about the scope of service of the RWS were being made, these areas [including TRA] were excluded from consideration.  The Settlement Agreement contains language about areas that will not be able to connect to the RWS because it will not be accessible them.

In general, County goals include the expansion of a surface water-based distribution system in the Santa Fe metro area to the extent feasible. This would include the TRA.  However, it is difficult to predict when such a system would reach TRA due to cost and logistical considerations. At any rate, it will be provided outside the Aamodt Settlement Agreement, as a purely County initiative.

CWU: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

  1. Q: How and when will the County present a plan for a viable County Water Utility (CWU) to well owners in the NPT portion of the Tano Road area?  Some of these well owners may be filing an ASA Acceptance, including a “Notice of Domestic Well Election.”  Two of the three Election options involve agreeing “…to connect to the County Water Utility…” and well owners would like information about any future CWU specific to the Tano neighborhood to use as a basis for this decision.
    A: Under the current plan, the Tano Road area will not be served by the Aamodt CWU. The link below is to the US Bureau of Rec’s site, which includes a map of the proposed CWU: https://sites.google.com/site/pbwatereis/home The CWU is not being extended to the Tano area because of the cost.  The County has to pay the marginal cost of any infrastructure that serves non-pueblo customers.  In most cases, the marginal cost is very low compared to the total cost since the pueblo infrastructure is already being built.  But for Tano road, Chupadero, and other areas, the marginal cost will be 100% of the total cost and the County can’t afford that.  That’s not to say that the County does not want to extend a water system to Tano road at some point; it just likely won’t be under the Aamdot RWS.  As discussed at the meeting last week, the County is working on a better map to make it more clear if a parcel is in the Aamodt settlement area but not in the RWS/CWU service area.
  2. Q: What water supply sources will the County draw on for a CWU in the Tano area?  An RWS facility? Existing or new productions wells?  Injections wells?
    A: The water source for the CWU will be a surface diversion off the Rio Grande near Otowi Bridge.  Wells will not be a source of supply, though injection wells are being examined as back-up systems.  Referring to question 1, if at some point in the future the County extends a water system to Tano road outside of Aamodt, the water supply may come from the Aamodt side or it may come from the BDD side.
  3. Q: Will the CWU in the Tano area serve only this neighborhood or other nearby neighborhoods such as Casas de San Juan, and the domestic well portion of Circle Drive?  Will other water users in the area be served, such as the Opera, Tesuque Village and the Tesuque Elementary School or Bishop’s Lodge?
    A: Under the current plan, the CWU will serve the Bishop’s Lodge area, all the way to City limits.  The final coverage area has not been determined, but it will likely be ~200 feet off of either side of Bishop’s Lodge.  Note that the school, the lodge, the Tesuque MDWCA, and the private land owners will all have to make a well election themselves.  The opera is not being considered.
  4. Q: Will the CWU be a household water system, a fire protection system, or both?  Or other?
    A: The CWU will ultimately be both household and fire protection, but knowing that not everyone will hook up immediately, the County is working toward full build-out as a fire protection system, which puts the infrastructure in place at a lower cost and allows people to hook up in the future.
  5. Q: If the CWU in the Tano area is a fire protection system exclusively, will it serve the entire Tano neighborhood or only the NPT portion?
    A: Under current plans, the CWU will not be in the Tano area.  However, it would probably make technical and financial sense that any water system in the Tano road area encompass as many households as possible.  That being said, there may be legal implications of taking water from the Aamodt settlement area and delivering it outside of the Aamodt settlement area.
  6. Q: Depending upon the nature of the CWU, will it be available to NPT well owners who do not select “Notice of Domestic Well Election,” Option 1, at this time but may want to connect to a future CWU?  Will the CWU be available to other well users in the Tano area or only to NPT well owners?
    A: Whatever the CWU looks like, it will always be available to people to choose to hook up at some point in the future. The only downside to them is, they won’t necessarily get the money for the free hook-up.  The County wants to get as many people on the system as possible, for a number of reasons.  As I said earlier, the Aamodt CWU will not reach Tano Road.  But if and when the County extends water service to Tano, it will be open to everyone.
  7. Q: If the CWU is not a household water system, Tano residents will continue to depend on their wells as their sole water source into the future.  What aquifer/domestic well water supply protections will the County put in place and uphold to protect against excessive draw down of the aquifer in the Tano area?
    A: The Settlement agreement includes funds to reimburse people for impairment to their well if they are not able to hook up to the system. The settlement also places the Pueblos under the water master jurisdiction of the State Engineer, and includes a robust metering program. There is recognition in the settlement that well owners who do not have access to the CWU may need protection.
  8. Q: How and when will the County implement a future CWU in the Tano area?  How much will it cost homeowners to connect?  What are the legal and permitted water rights ramifications to well owners such as water rights acquisition fees, re-drilling and or existing well repair fees?
    A: County policies are to try to extend a water system.  It is hard to predict when a water system will reach Tano Road, but it will be part of an orderly, cost-effective expansion.  The current County connection fee is $2750, which does not include the cost of the water line from the house to the property line.  There are existing county policies on your last question, but I’ll have to dig them up.
  9. Q: What incentives will the County offer to Tano well owners to connect to a future CWU?  What conditions or penalties will be applied to Tano well owners who do not have access to the RWS and choose to keep their wells as their sole source of water?
    A: If a water system is extended to the Tano area outside of the Aamodt settlement, I can’t say if any incentives will be offered to well owners.  At other locations in the County, the County has offered no incentives.  Any Tano well owner in the settlement area who does not have access to the CWU will not be penalized, but they will face usage limits that everyone in the entire settlement area face.  The usage limits are actually quite generous, so in my meetings I’ve learned that most people will be unaffected by them.