N.M. village runs out of water

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By Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The village of Magdalena is scrambling now that its sole drinking water well has gone dry.
The water table has dropped almost 20 feet since January due to the persistent drought that has plagued nearly all of New Mexico for the last three years. That combined with infrastructure problems that caused the well to collapse left about 1,000 residents and several businesses without water Wednesday.
Magdalena officials have put in a request with the state engineer’s office to drill a new well, but that could take a week or two. For now, the community will have to rely on water tenders from Socorro and White Sands Missile Range.
“We’re delivering potable water to residents, especially the elderly and small children we’re concerned about,” village Marshal Larry Cearley said. “We can only deliver so much water for so long.”
The village is also ordering cases of water from stores in nearby Socorro.
Gov. Susana Martinez said Wednesday that state officials are monitoring the situation.
“We’re hopeful we can find more water there and we certainly are going to send the National Guard with potable water so that residents can use it for cooking and drinking,” Martinez said.
Magdalena is not alone. Across the state’s eastern plains, livestock wells stand empty and ranchers are selling their cattle. Domestic wells near Santa Fe and Las Vegas have been going dry and reservoirs across the state have reached record lows.
Albuquerque, Santa Fe and other cities have imposed watering restrictions in an effort to conserve heading into what is expected to be another hot, dry summer.
The state’s top water official, State Engineer Scott Verhines, has acknowledged that New Mexico is under tremendous pressure due to the drought. Last month, he required irrigators, municipalities and industry in eastern New Mexico to install meters on their underground wells to monitor how much water is being pumped. Water users in the lower Rio Grande already monitor their wells with meters.
Cearley said Wednesday that Magdalena has applied to the state engineer’s office for the last four years to get a second well drilled and has been denied each time. He added that money to do such work has also been tight.
Business owners in Magdalena were meeting Wednesday afternoon with officials from the state Environment Department to discuss how the water shortage might affect the village’s cafes, convenience store and motel.
Environment Department spokesman Jim Winchester said officials are looking at whether the existing well can be drilled deeper or whether an emergency well can be drilled nearby. The state also helped identify a contractor to provide potable water.
Cearley said summer school has started so drinking water will be needed for the students.
“We’re working on every angle,” he said.