Drought Watch: Water authority reminds public about restrictions, fines in Albuquerque

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Despite the rain New Mexico has received, experts predict a drought this season.

"Our main concern is not that this drought is going to cause us to run out of water tomorrow. It’s a long-term question of managing our resources during times of drought," said David Morris, the public affairs manager for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.

He said the water authority uses water from the San Juan-Chama Project that offers water from southern Colorado.

"During times of drought, the availability of that water for various reasons can be limited, and we have to stop using it, essentially. When we do that, that means we have to use our groundwater reserves. That’s where we turn to the aquifer to make up for what we can’t get from the river," said Morris.

He said the community uses an average of 30 billion gallons of water every year. In a non-drought year, 70% of surface water comes from the San Juan-Chama Project. 30% is groundwater from the aquifer.

However, when there is a drought, those percentages swap. 30% is used from the project water supply, and 70% is from aquifer water.

"One year isn’t going to break us, but over the course of many year, we can start to deplete that resource and so that’s why we have to be careful now so that we don’t find ourselves in a crisis situation a decade from now," said Morris.

The water authority has a watering restriction in place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. A person caught wasting water can pay up anything from $40 to $500 for the first violation. The max fine under the drought watch is $2,000.

Warnings may also be handed out before a violation.

Morris said removing or reducing turf can help save water, and switching to a high-efficiency washing machine can help reduce waste water.

There are also rebates available for anyone interested in saving water, or attending a virtual workshop.