Stuff I Wrote Elsewhere: Albuquerque’s Sewage Reclamation

Albuquerque’s on the brink of New Mexico’s largest sewage reclamation project, taking 2,500 acre feet per year of water from the city’s wastewater treatment plant outflow and using it to water parks and golf courses.

All well and good. Sounds like a great idea to put wasted water to use. But, as I tried to get across in a story for the newspaper (ad/pay gated) this isn’t “free water”:

[T]he sewage reuse will reduce pumping from Albuquerque’s aquifer, Stomp said.

But because the sewage treatment plant discharge provides water for the Rio Grande ecosystem and downstream users, the project is essentially a zero sum game in New Mexico’s overall water budget, experts say.

“Municipal water reuse isn’t necessarily conservation,” University of New Mexico water resources professor Bruce Thomson and local water consultant John Shomaker wrote in a recent analysis of the issue.

Stomp agrees the project won’t change Albuquerque’s “consumptive use” of water — the amount we pump from the aquifer or remove from the river minus the amount returned to the river from the sewage treatment plant.

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