Funding major milestone for water supply

By:  U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich

We have known for a long time that pumping unlimited groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer is unsustainable. The future of water for eastern New Mexico communities like Clovis and Portales depends on us securing an alternative supply. That's why I have worked so hard over the last decade to support the construction of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Supply Project, also referred to as the Ute Pipeline Project.

I first voted in 2009 to authorize the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System to provide potable water to eastern New Mexico communities and to Cannon Air Force Base for municipal, commercial, and industrial use. Once the entire project is completed, it will deliver a renewable surface water supply from the Ute Reservoir to the four member communities in Clovis, Elida, Portales and Texico.

I was proud to announce earlier this month that the federal government is funding nearly $15 million in the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority (ENMWUA). This funding will allow for the completion of the next phase of this project, which will construct a water pipeline from Cannon Air Force Base south to Portales. A previous completed phase has already connected Cannon and Clovis. This year's funding also represents a tripling of the historic level of federal investment in the project. That is a major victory.

The Ute Dam was built by the state of New Mexico on the Canadian River over 50 years ago in anticipation of the looming groundwater shortage in eastern New Mexico. The water in the reservoir, which is promised to the state of New Mexico as part of an agreement with Oklahoma and Texas, was always supposed to be used to provide a secure water source for eastern New Mexico communities. To make that a reality, we need to see the entire pipeline project through to completion.

This is an urgent priority. Over the years, water levels below Clovis, Portales, and surrounding communities have declined more than 100 feet. Even with conservation and efficiency measures, existing aquifer groundwater supplies will not meet the water needs of eastern New Mexico communities in the near future.

At the start of this new Congress, I was appointed to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees all federal funding bills. My committee assignment includes a seat on the energy and water development subcommittee. In my new role, I am committed to securing the federal funding and technical support that New Mexico communities need to complete infrastructure projects that will ensure a long-term, sustainable water future for our state.

This year's critical investment is one down payment for what will be a multi-year commitment to this project. You can count on me to keep doing everything in my power to bring a sustainable water supply to eastern New Mexico communities.