By Dave Gragg
U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman submitted legislation on Friday that gives the Bureau of Reclamation $500,000 to study lining the Arch Hurley Canal and what effect that lining would have on irrigated and municipal water supplies.
In August of 2002, the Arch Hurley Irrigation District announced plans to study lining the canal to keep water from seeping through the bottom of the earthen ditches.
If the canal were lined, the saved water would be split between the district farmers and some would be sent to the Pecos River to help New Mexico meet its water obligations to Texas.
Many Tucumcari and district officials worry the seepage recharges the Entrada Aquifer which supplies the city’s water supply.
District Board Member Franklin McCasland said the BOR study would investigate how much water the district loses in the 40 miles from Conchas to Tucumcari and how much of the seepage makes it into the aquifer.
Currently unlined, that canal delivers water from the Conchas Lake throughout district to irrigate more than 41,000 acres of farmland in eastern New Mexico.
“This project could play a significant role in helping to address the chronic water supply issues that exist in the eastern part of the state,” Bingaman said. “Developed by the conservancy district’s leadership, this idea represents a creative effort to improve water management and efficiency within New Mexico. If we expect to meet the water needs of those living in the arid West, then we’re going to have to continue exploring such ideas.”
The measure will be referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Bingaman is the top Democrat on the energy panel and New Mexico’s other senator, Republican Pete Domenici, is the chairman of that committee.