A couple of blocks from my Albuquerque home is Del Sol Park, but everyone in the neighborhood calls it “Twin Parks”, because of the short street that divides it in two. On one side of that street, a nondescript concrete pad marks the spot where the U.S. Geological Survey measures the depth to groundwater beneath our part of Albuquerque.
When I started writing about water for the Albuquerque Journal, the community was in the early stages of a $500 million experiment – a shift beginning in late 2008 to river water as our primary source of drinking water, away from an over reliance on groundwater that was draining our aquifer. And so, doing journalism, I started watching the data from the USGS network of groundwater monitoring stations, especially Del Sol. (If the USGS is measuring the groundwater beneath your house, it’s a good benchmark, right?) I confess: I was waiting for the experiment to fail, and to write the story about how our attempt to save our aquifer wasn’t working. But by 2011, the data convinced me that the effort was succeeding. In my neighborhood, an aquifer that was declining a foot every couple of years has risen nearly 20 feet, a pattern seen all over town:
You can still see the impact of pumping in the graph’s squiggles, as the aquifer drops in summer and rises in winter. We’re not off of groundwater completely, and never will be. But the overall trend is headed in the right direction. It’s driven in part by the fact that, unlike a lot of western states, New Mexico recognizes the connection between groundwater and surface water in our water rights administration. Yay us!
Oh yeah, and in addition to shifting to surface water, Albuquerque’s per capita water consumption has dropped in the last two decades from about 250 gallons per capita per day to what could be as low as 130 this year. So there’s that.
And also oh yeah, it rained this evening.
Just some hopeful notes on a Sunday evening in our droughty summer of discontent.