Cannon partners with communities in water project
27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron
Groundwater is a precious commodity in many parts of the world, including the High Plains of eastern New Mexico. The Federal government recognized the importance of this resource for the long-term sustainability of this region and earlier this year President Obama authorized the Bureau of Reclamation to spend up to $324 million for the Ute Pipeline project.
This project will deliver drinking water to six local communities, Curry County and Cannon. The remaining $108 million needed to get drinking water delivered from Ute Lake, 80 miles to our north, is the responsibility of the State and these local communities.
John Rebman, Cannon’s Water Quality Program manager, says that construction completion for the project is at least 10 years out. Also according to Rebman, Cannon stays on top of developments by attending monthly Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority meetings. These public meetings focus on the wide-ranging efforts taking place to keep this critical project on track.
Cannon has partnered with New Mexico American Water and Clovis to help ensure that the Ogallala aquifer can provide water to all local communities until the Ute Pipeline project delivers the first drop of water. NMAW is using this new partnership (Clovis Water Users Work Group) to expand their annual conservation campaign. NMAW is the largest regulated water utility in the state, delivering water to Clovis and many other NM communities. Although, Cannon doesn’t rely on NMAW to provide its drinking water, water is drawn from the same underground aquifer.
“In essence,” Rebman noted, “Cannon is one of hundreds of ‘straws’ pulling water out of the Ogallala aquifer, an underground water source that encompasses approximately 174,000 square miles and extends into eight states; therefore, our activities impact our neighbors. If one visualizes the Ogallala as a wide shallow dinner plate filled with water, Cannon’s location would be on one side of the plate, close to the rim. As water is removed from the plate, the water recedes from the rim. This is basically what is happening to the aquifer below Cannon.”
Through this partnership, Cannon shares water conservation initiatives it has taken and plans to undertake. Rebman briefed these diverse initiatives during the Oct. 13 Clovis Water Users Work Group meeting.
“The various stakeholders,” Rebman said, “such as the dairy industry, cheese plant, and school systems, were very impressed with Cannon’s past and continuing efforts to conserve this precious and declining resource.”
One only needs to drive around base to see these efforts — large irrigated areas, such as the law center and main gate, have been replaced with desert landscaping. Xeriscaping like this isn’t a new concept for Cannon; however, it has recently taken on greater importance. Likewise, reusing treated wastewater from Cannon’s wastewater treatment plant to irrigate several recreational areas has taken place since 1999, but according to Rebman, “Cannon has plans to dramatically increase the amount of wastewater reuse by building a large reservoir to store wastewater we’d ordinarily discharge to on on-base lakes during winter months when irrigation subsides.”
“Conservation efforts aren’t just about being good neighbors,” he continued. “Presidential Executive Order 13588 signed by President Obama on Oct. 5 requires federal entities to reduce both potable and other categories (e.g., landscape) of water by two percent per year or 20 percent by 2020.”