Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
For years, the water from Jerome McCann’s faucet came out brown or black. McCann has lived for 49 years in the South Valley’s Los Padillas area, where residents pump water from private wells.
Now, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority has installed 5.5 miles of municipal water lines in Los Padillas, with hookups available for 200 houses.
“There’s a couple of our neighbors who went real deep on their wells, and they had pretty good water,” McCann said. “But ours was only like a 60-foot well, and it had been there since the 1920s. Sometimes, we had to bathe in that water. But we always drank bottled water.”
He suspects the water table was contaminated by fuel tanks from a now-demolished gas station.
Work began on the $4 million project in the fall of 2017. The water authority paid for about $1 million of the total in capital funds and contributed labor. Bernalillo County and a state revolving loan covered the remainder of the costs.
“It took a while to install the main lines and then filter out to other streets in the neighborhood, but we actually got it done,” said County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada, who represents the area and serves on the water authority board. “These people have been waiting forever for water.”
An uncertain project timeline forced McCann to pay $5,000 to drill a deeper well. But now that the pipes and valves are finished outside his home, he says it’s only a matter of time before he takes advantage.
“We did hook up our rental property next door. My son who lives a couple blocks away also hooked up to the city water, and he’s really happy with it,” he said. “For all of the houses down the street that I know that have hooked up to it, it’s really paid off.”
Quezada said the water authority offers payment assistance to help residents cover the costs of connecting to the municipal water lines.
“It’s still a lot cheaper than going deeper with a well,” he said. “I remember going to these people’s homes, and when they turned the knob on the sink, brown stuff came out. That’s just wrong. It’s their right to have access to clean water.”
Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.