The water table in the Eldorado area is dropping, according to two different kinds of experts.
Steve King, general manager of the Eldorado Area Water & Sanitation District, which has about 3,000 customers, said water levels are declining in the area, “no question about that.”
The district is operating a dozen of its own wells, but it also is pursuing a connection to the Santa Fe County water system and a long-term service agreement for a share of that resource.
The other authority services private wells in the area. Brian Berry, owner of Puncher’s Supply Water Well Service and Repair, also said he believes the water table is declining.
That could mean problems for private well owners. Or, in the case of a few hundred homes in western Eldorado, for well-sharing groups.
In one of those groups, four houses share a well that was dug in 1984. The residents had an infrequent but chronic problem of running out of water, probably when all happened to be doing laundry at the same time.
That was solved by Puncher’s — a name held over from Berry’s previous business, based in Cimarron, that made saddles and other cowpuncher equipment.
Last month, Berry installed and plumbed a 2,500-gallon water-
storage cistern next to the well.
That cost each of the four houses about $2,500, but now there is plenty of water. The well pump, 280 feet down, works slowly to keep the cistern full, and a second pump inside the cistern delivers water to the houses.
Berry, whose company is based in Santa Cruz, has installed such auxiliary storage tanks in Tesuque, El Rancho, Chama and Medenales, and he is preparing to do another one in Los Cerrillos.
“It’s getting to be a common thing. I think the water table’s dropping a little bit, and this is the most efficient and certainly the most economical way to assure you have enough water,” Berry said. “This will solve the problem without drilling a new well, which probably costs five times as much.”
Asked if there are other strategies to fix such water-supply problems, Berry simply replied: “No. This is the fix.”
It’s easy to assume that with the higher amounts of rain and snow seen in the past year, the water table will bounce back. King said that’s not true.
“The hydrogeologists say we’re extracting more water from the aquifer than is naturally replenished, even when there aren’t drought conditions,” he noted.
King said there are just under 300 private wells in the Eldorado area. In the larger aquifer area, which extends north of Old Las Vegas Highway and to Lamy and Galisteo, there are 592 wells.
He had just been to the Office of the State Engineer the day before, trying to investigate what the state does regarding monitoring private wells.
Anna Mondragon-Metzger, the Eldorado water district’s administrative manager, said the agency had learned from one of its board members “that the monitoring of private wells is done only the honor system. That water is coming from the same source as ours is, so it would be nice to know that no one is drawing more than they’re supposed to.
“We just want to get a better handle on what’s being used by private wells,” she said.
King said the state routinely monitors the district’s wells.
Those houses at the western end of the subdivision could get Eldorado Area Water & Sanitation District water extended to them, but that’s a pricey proposition.
“A new water-service connection for a property where we have an actual water line in front of property is $15,000,” King said, adding the cost of extending the water main would be additional. “The property owner would have to pay for the design and secure a contractor to install the pipeline to our standards.”
It could all amount to as much as $300,000 — basically Powerball territory.
“And if you won the Powerball and installed the water line and you had neighbors who were interested, we could figure out some kind of reimbursement, a pro rata sharing,” King said. “We’ve never done that, but the provision is there.”