August 23, 2023

Eastern New Mexico water pipeline project enters its next phase

Martin Heinrich's Office

Officials break ground on the pipeline that will take water from Ute Lake to communities in Eastern New Mexico.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation broke ground on Tuesday on the next phase of a pipeline project that will take water from Ute Lake to communities in eastern New Mexico, including Portales and Clovis.

This requires about 120 miles of pipeline as well as other infrastructure such as pump stations and a water treatment plant.

Once complete, the pipeline will provide reliable, safe and secure drinking water to approximately 70,000 people. The pipeline is important because the communities in eastern New Mexico rely on the Ogallala Aquifer, which is declining.

Funding for the project came in part through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the bipartisan infrastructure package.

The next phase of the project will connect to a future treatment plant that will be built soon. That plant is key to treating and delivering water to the people of eastern New Mexico, including Cannon Air Force Base.

“We value the partnership with these communities and New Mexico with a common goal of supplementing the groundwater supply of the area as the Ogallala Aquifer continues to decline,” Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Manager Jennifer Faler said in a press release. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding is giving them the opportunity to advance the system for future generations.”  

Reclamation’s Deputy Commissioner Grayford Payne emphasized the need for water security in light of climate change.

“As drought intensifies in the West, we must act quickly to ensure these communities have a stable water supply to continue to thrive,” Payne said.

Both of New Mexico’s U.S. senators, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján attended the groundbreaking ceremony. The two of them, both Democrats, have worked to secure funding for the project since 2009 when they entered Congress, as Heinrich highlighted when he spoke with members of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority. At that time, both were in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Since 2009, the two of them have secured $322 million in federal resources to support the project. 

“As brand new freshmen members of Congress, we landed in Washington, D.C. in 2009. That’s when Senator Luján and I voted to authorize this project then got to work as a team with all of you and our entire delegation year after year for this project,” he said.

He further spoke about the annual Infrastructure Week in Washington. He said that while Congress had the annual week focused on infrastructure “we never really got serious about infrastructure or had the cohesive coalition to make a real investment the way that folks did when they created the Interstate Highway System or the New Deal.”

That changed in 2021 when Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure law.

“That was our moment to really invest in the things that will pay dividends for generations to come,” Heinrich said. “Water and broadband, more than probably anything else, were the things that New Mexico needed to really create the foundation for communities like this to thrive.”

Luján also spoke about the lengthy efforts that went into making the pipeline a reality.” Since serving as a member of the U.S. House, I have worked with local, state, and federal leaders to deliver investments to the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System – an important lifeline for communities like Clovis, Portales, Texico, and Elida. This project, which will strengthen the water supply, was years in the making to address the groundwater shortage in the region,” he said in a statement. “I was proud to join Senator Heinrich and local leaders to break ground on the next portion of this project, and I will continue working to address the water crisis that rural New Mexicans face.”