New program to help keep arroyos clear
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque’s north diversion channel can go from zero to four feet of water in about 90 seconds.
“This channel is able to move a lot of water very quickly and that’s why it’s so dangerous,” said Jerry Lovato, the Executive Engineer for AMAFCA. “It doesn’t have to be raining on your head for water to be running down this channel.”
The channel drains about 100 square miles of the city. It can get as high as ten feet.
“There will be water in this channel and we want people to be safe,” said Lovato.
The ditch and water safety task force started a new effort this summer to keep the ditches clear, after the city’s deadliest summer in recent history in 2021. Four people total were washed away in the channel—including three in one day.
“We are committed to trying to reduce those numbers or eliminate those numbers as best we can,” said Willie West, real estate manager for AMAFCA.
They’ve identified hot spots in the system where people tend to camp. When the National Weather Service issues a storm alert, a group will go out to the hot spots to check if anyone is there. If so, the group will encourage them to leave as quickly as possible.
The task force created the “Ditches are Deadly” program back in the 1990s to help kids stay out of arroyos but now they’re shifting their focus to another population.
“Over the last five years, the people that unfortunately we’ve lost in the ditches have been between the ages of 21 and 33,” West said.
There have been talks in the past about adding sensors and an alarm system to warn people when water is coming, but that’s just an idea at this point.
“Unfortunately that’s an extremely technology-driven, challenging project,” said West. “Hopefully one day it’ll happen because that will make our system so much safer if we can alert people that water is coming.”
Leaders say the amount of trash in the arroyos and channels right now is also a great concern. Glass, needles, or rocks and other trash can cause major danger.