Albuquerque, New Mexico

Protecting water for Albuquerque

A public water utility in New Mexico is trying an innovative approach to preserving water quality, donating money to protect the environment upstream.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, providing water and wastewater services to the greater Albuquerque metropolitan area, is the largest water utility in New Mexico with an annual operating budget of more than $170 million. It is a political subdivision of the state of New Mexico established in 2003. As reported by the authority just donated $1 million to help protect the land where its water originates – without owning it.

Saving $6 million over 25 years 

It is planned to shell out $1 million over five years to the Rio Grande Water Fund which was launched three years ago aiming to protect San Juan-Chama and Rio Grande watershed lands from catastrophic forest fires by funding forest restoration projects on about 600,000 forested acres, namely through thinning and prescribed burns. This plan is expected to protect water downstream. By their donations the utility is responding to the need to protect its resources in the face of climate change. “The Water Authority recognized the need to do something about our forests and what would happen to them in the face of climate change: catastrophic fire, drying, less snowpack, all of those impacts,” Katherine Yuhas, water resources manager for the Water Authority is quoted. “The next 20 years don’t look that dire in terms of climate change and our water supply. But when you start to look out 80 years, then we start to see big impacts.” The environmental initiative is expected to save $6 million over the next 25 years.

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