Ailing pipes: $15 million needed to replace town's failing water system

By Jesse Moya
jmoya@taosnews.com
Posted 2/13/20

Winter months mean difficulties for an aging water system in a town like Taos.

Town of Taos crews are working to update and upgrade old and outdated water pipes and systems around the town. Many of the water systems were established decades ago and are slowly being replaced by updated systems parts.

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Ailing pipes: $15 million needed to replace town's failing water system

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Winter months mean difficulties for an aging water system in a town like Taos.

Town of Taos crews are working to update and upgrade old and outdated water pipes and systems around the town. Many of the water systems were established decades ago and are slowly being replaced by updated systems parts.

"We need to be honest with the public about the millions and millions of dollars that it's going to cost us for an aging infrastructure," said Councilor Darien Fernandez at a recent candidates forum.

According to Fernandez, some of the pipes around Taos have been invaded by tree roots, causing leaks and other issues.

A 2015 Water and Wastewater Master Plan for the town indicated over $15 million is needed to replace failing system components throughout the town's entire water system.

Currently the town has 10 wells, only four of which are active at any given time. The most recent of the active wells was completed in 2000 and the oldest was drilled in the 1970s. Still, town officials say that's plenty of water to satisfy customer needs.

"Together we have more than enough water capacity going into the summer and for the foreseeable future without adding any other capacity," town manager Rick Bellis said in an email.

There is plenty of water as long as the wells don't fail. The town is currently working on replacing and updating many of the systems in town after a 2018 state of emergency was declared. Well 5 of the town's system failed and prompted the town to install a new pump in the well house near Taos Mesa Brewing's Tap Room, on Paseo del Pueblo Sur.

Since then, Town Public Works Director Francisco Espinoza said the department has been working to ensure the systems are looked at and functioning.

Proper operations can be difficult in the winter as older pipes freeze and cause damage.

Frigid temperatures in the Morada Lane area of the downtown caused a pipe to freeze and several customers were out of water for a few hours.

The issue was resolved the same day, but Espinoza acknowledged that the pipes in the area are over 60 years old.

"The Manzanares line appears to be late '40s to early '50s so Morada may be earlier than that," Espinoza said of an additional water issue on Manzanares Street earlier this week.

The town currently has $1.8 million scheduled on the infrastructure capital improvement plan for updates and improvements to the water system in the coming years.

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