By Landry Sena
The Staff of The News 

Portales public utilities director: More to be done to conserve water


Last updated 7/15/2023 at 12:53pm

Courtesy photo

Portales City Attorney Steve Doerr swears in Twila Flen as the city's new finance director.

The citizens of Portales are doing a good job at conserving water, but there is still more that needs to be done, John DeSha, the city's public utilities director, on Tuesday told the Portales City Council.

The Stage 3 water emergency was declared on June 28, and the mandatory restrictions on water use that were enacted then still apply, DeSha told the council.

The city wellfield's capacity has been reduced over the last several years due to the declining levels in the Ogallala Aquifer, the wells' water source, made worse due to recent high temperatures, a city news release stated.

"We are able to fill the tanks, but it took us seven days," DeSha said.

The restrictions for the water emergency are as follows:

Outdoor landscape watering: No watering, except for trees, shrubs, and vegetable gardens with shut-off hose and hand-held container.

• Car washing at residence is prohibited.

• Washing down pavement, sidewalks, etc. is prohibited.

• Residential spas, and swimming pools: Filling and refilling is prohibited.

• Filling and refilling of ornamental fountains is prohibited.

DeSha said that anyone who fails to follow these rules will first get a warning, then the water will get shut off and they are directed to speak to the city. If they do it again, the meter would be pulled.

"We could fight a fire if we needed to, but we can't come off of conservation any time soon," DeSha said.

Mayor Ron Jackson and City Manager Sarah Austin both thanked citizens for their efforts in conserving water.

"I trust that we're going to get there," Jackson said. "People have stepped up and I appreciate them stepping up."

The council also heard a presentation on a comprehensive plan for the city to help reach the community's future goals.

Phyllis Taylor with Sites Southwest presented what elements of the comprehensive plan that include land use, housing, economic development, transportation, infrastructure, hazard mitigation, among others.

Sites Southwest is a landscape architecture, community planning and urban design fim based in Albuquerque.

The highest priority projects, according to Taylor, are quality of life, roads, new/affordable housing, renovations and improvements in certain areas, and water supply.

"The city has been very proactive in water conservation," Taylor said.

Taylor said Sites Southwest will be taking public comments until Wednesday. A final draft of the comprehensive plan should be done by July 25 and will then be presented to the council.

Taylor said that so far, there have been 350 participants in Sites Southwest's online survey. Person may leave a comment by emailing [email protected] or [email protected]

With just seven weeks until Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) begins fall classes, the university's chancellor, James Johnston, on Tuesday gave the council an update.

Johnston informed the council that enrollment is up, and he is looking forward to connecting the community with the university with some exciting upcoming events.

"As people travel to Portales, they see that support to Eastern from the community," Johnston said. With family weekend and homecoming, Johnston said he is excited to get people out and on campus.

The council thanked Johnston for his efforts in getting students to return to campus, instead of taking online classes only.

In other matters at Tuesday's meeting:

• Marilyn Rapp retired from her position as finance director for the city and will be replaced by Twila Flen at the end of this month. Rapp has been in the position since 2002. Flen was sworn into the role by City Attorney Steve Doerr.


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