News Feature | April 9, 2014

$1.4 Million Just A Drop In The Bucket As New Mexico City Struggles With Leaks

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Rio Rancho is raking in state money for water infrastructure, but it might not be enough to help a city plagued by major leaks and water main breaks.

Late last month, Governor Susana Martinez made a stop in her state's third-largest city to announce the availability of new funding. "Rio Rancho was awarded $1.4 million for replacing aging plastic water service lines with copper," the Albuquerque Journal reported.  

The city's water infrastructure is basically falling apart.

"Since at least 2007, city councilman Chuck Wilkins said the city has had their fair share of water main breaks and leaks. He said they've recorded at least 1,000 lines breaking a year and about a 12th of their water wasted, running down the road," KOAT reported

Residents notice symptoms of the problem all around them. "Last year, a Rio Rancho neighborhood routinely saw water bubbling up from the pipes below the surface and streaming down streets," KRQE reported.

During her visit, the governor acknowledged that Rio Rancho's infrastructure problems are severe.

"The governor said Rio Rancho estimates it’s lost more than 14.5 million gallons of water because of waterline leaks and even breaks," KRQE reported. "A city spokesperson said in a one-year span crews worked on more than 800 service leaks. The city blames the developer for using poly-butylene water lines that become brittle with age and crack."

This year, the state has taken an interest in funding water upgrades.

“Water is one of those critical pieces of infrastructure,” Martinez said in the report. “We just finished our legislative session and water was one of the key initiatives." The state voted $111 million toward water projects last session, she said.

But will it be enough? Hardly.

State funding will only address some of Rio Rancho's water problems. "The capital outlay funds are expected to replace between 500 to 600 lines. That still leaves more than 13,000," KRQE said. 

Rio Rancho is not the only New Mexico city sorely in need of funding. 

An infrastructure report card compiled by the American Society of Civil Engineers said that the state has reported $933 million in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next two decades. 

The state has reported $103 million in wastewater infrastructure needs over the same time period.

For more about government involvement in the water sector, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "Water Main Leak, Ward and 7th Streets," © 2006 the bridge, used under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license:

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