CCNS Raises Questions about Water Consumption at LANL

October 8, 2010

The Department of Energy (DOE) is facing a 2008 requirement that it reduce its water usage by 16 percent by 2015, but has not done much in order to comply.

CCNS research indicates that LANL used about 1,165 acre-feet of water in 2008. An acre-foot is a volume of water needed to cover one acre to a depth of one foot. An acre could measure about 208 feet on each side. One acre-foot of water contains approximately 326,000 gallons, or enough water to supply four family households in Santa Fe for a year.

In January 2007, President Bush signed Executive Order 13423 that required federal agencies to reduce their water consumption by two percent per year until September 30, 2015, for a total reduction of 16 percent., The baseline year was 2008. But the latest annual progress report on DOE implementation of the executive order indicates that not much has been done at LANL to reduce water usage.

DOE and Los Alamos County hold leased groundwater rights of approximately 5,541 acre-feet per year. DOE also holds a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for 1,200 acre-feet per year of San Juan-Chama surface water. In this case, water from the San Juan River flows through a tunnel into the Chama River, which then flows into the Rio Grande.

Because DOE and Los Alamos County currently do not have any way to retrieve their San Juan-Chama water, in July 2010 the County asked the Buckman Direct Diversion Board to consider the possibility of sending their San Juan Chama water from the Rio Grande through the Buckman diversion structure. This water would then be piped back across the Rio Grande and lifted about 1,000 feet to the White Rock Water Treatment Facility in Los Alamos County. CCNS understands that the County will soon release a request for proposals for engineering studies.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, "If the DOE is to comply with the Executive Order at LANL, it will have to reduce consumption by 16 percent, or about 180 acre feet. That is an annual amount of water that could be used by about 720 households in Santa Fe. Every indication is that DOE plans to increase its water usage at LANL at the expense of farmers and ranchers, fish and aquatic life, the environment, and those living downstream who drink water."

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