U.S. Water News
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Just as Albuquerque water and
customers can now look at their monthly utility bills and
tell immediately how much water they are conserving, city
water managers are using a computer model to plan and
predict the limit's of Albuquerque's future water supplies.
The new bills have been developed by the city water
resources department, while the computer model is the work
of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
By featuring a bar graph that shows current water usage
compared to year-earlier use and personalized messages
providing comments on individual use, the Albuquerque water
bills should provide users a clearer idea of how much water
they need to save, said city water resources program manager
Norman Gaume. "This bill allows people to put their use into
perspective with their previous use and the use of the
typical residential customer," said Gaume.
The new bills follow approval late last year by the
Albuquerque City Council of a controversial 21-percent rate
hike that raises the average residential customer's water
bill by $6.17 a month. Most of the rate increase, an average
monthly charge of $4.37, is to clean wastewater to meet the
city's recent water quality settlement with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition, Mayor
Martin Chavez is calling on residents to voluntarily reduce
water consumption by 30 percent after the USGS computer
model has indicated that Albuquerque's water supply is much
more limited than originally believed.
The model, which shows where and how fast groundwater levels
will decline in the next 25 years under different rates of
pumping, indicates that existing usage would cause a drop of
65 feet in the water table of the city's wells by the year
2020. With 30-percent water conservation and continued
growth, average water table declines would be reduced to
just 28 feet, according to the model.
"In a nutshell, the model tells us our water conservation
plan is right on target," said Chavez. "But it also tells us
that even with growth, we will not have a water crisis if we
wisely manage this resource," the Albuquerque mayor added.
The Albuquerque model, created in cooperation with city
officials, represents the most detailed groundwater
simulation yet developed, said Mike Kernodle of USGS. "The
results are a good example of science and technology
blending to provide the information needed for water
managers to make critical decisions," said Kernodle. In
order to produce the model, he noted, USGS scientists
divided a 2,000 square-mile area up and down the Rio Grande
River from Albuquerque into 477,000 separate cells. For each
of the cells, hydrologic and geologic data were analyzed to
a depth of 1,700 feet below the level of the Rio Grande.
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