May 27, 2022

Delays in Navajo-Gallup pipeline mean new wells have to be drilled

Hannah Grover/NM Political Report

The San Juan River, a tributary of the Colorado River, is pictured in April, 2021 in Bloomfield.

Two more groundwater wells will be drilled to meet the City of Gallup’s water demands until surface water can be transported to the area from the San Juan River.

Delays in the construction of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project mean that the City of Gallup must rely on groundwater supplies from aging wells that have seen dropping water levels for longer than anticipated.

The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project was supposed to come online in 2024, allowing Gallup to switch over to using water from the San Juan River that is stored at Navajo Lake. In addition to being delayed, the project is running over budget.

The delays will be costly and, on Thursday, the Interstate Stream Commission authorized its director to finalize a funding agreement with the City of Gallup that will allow for the $8 million the Legislature allocated in the Colorado River Basin Bureau Work Plan.

The money will be used to drill two new groundwater wells and connect them to Gallup’s existing water supply system.

Mark DePauli of DePauli Engineering & Surveying attended the meeting. His firm is working with the City of Gallup and he said the groundwater wells the city relies on are drilled into a sandstone formation.

He said as water is withdrawn from the wells, microscopic particles get into the wells.

“You can’t get much more water into the wells and the wells are filled with sand,” he said.

Once that happens, the city abandons the wells.

The city has had 45 wells drilled over time and currently has 15 that are operational.

It has been 20 years since Gallup last drilled a well. The decision not to drill new wells was made in anticipation of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.

“We only have 15 wells and once they’re done, they’re done. There’s really no way to go and rehab them,” he said.