Taos Friction Declares Stage Five Water Emergency on behalf of Residents

By: Bill Whaley
11 May, 2018

Town issues Water Restrictions: Expert Explains White Fir Death

Taos Friction applauds the excerpt below from the Town re: water restrictions due to drought and equipment failure. Paul Jones has also weighed in on the conditions leading to the death of the White Fir Tree. However, In the press release about “water restrictions,” the Town fails to alert the public as to  whether the emergency is at stage “4” or “5” ? So the Friction is declaring drought conditions and equipment failure, and dependence on EPWSD,  a “Stage 5.” emergency.

“Don’t drink the water” unless you have a note from Mom or the doctor.

The current drought, recognized by the restrictions below, suggest the Town Council (and County Commission) should be meeting to inform themselves and the general public of the emergency due to reports of snowmelt and water at “10%” of normal run-off. See dark red swath of drought in Taos County above on NM map.

El Prado Water and Sanitation District (EPWSD) currently supplies the Town with emergency water but contrary to rumor does not have an endless supply. Water tables are dropping, and aquifer recharge is negligible. Nobody accused EPWSD of having “deep pockets.”

As for Abeyta implementation, the drought reduces pressure on the signatories because there’s so little water to argue about, suggesting a peaceful irrigation season i.e. no irrigating after spring run-off unless the divine restores her blessings on Taos in the form of tears and rain. It’s time for Taos Pueblo to provide ceremonial dancers and traditional Catholics et al to light candles on this side of cattle guard. There are no atheists in an arroyo seco i.e. Dry Gulch. Meanwhile, the unprepared Signatories need to prepare: global climate change is here and paper water rights, motions and briefs that blow hither and yon will not fill cisterns, storage tanks, restore watershed or make water run in the acequia madres.

Excerpts from the Town Press Release

We have also negotiated with El Prado Water and Sanitation District to reopen the inter-connect between the two systems to allow for supplementing Town pumps with water from outside the system till the larger Well #4 pump arrives and an additional well on the Town side is up and running.

It does appear that the rapid increase in demand this spring, which may have led to the original collapse of Wells #4 and #5 trying to keep up with demand last month, is not going to subside anytime soon and may be directly related to the “Extreme Drought Conditions” we have been experiencing this spring, as defined by the National Weather Service (NWS).

The Water Restrictions being imposed, effective immediately, are as follows:


Residential washing of vehicles and outdoor watering for landscaping shall be restricted to one (1) hour per day and shall be done by hand held hose or drip irrigation only, between 6pm and 10am (to avoid rapid evaporation), and per the following schedule:

Even numbered street addresses – Tuesday and Sunday
Odd numbered street addresses – Monday and Saturday

Outdoor watering with sprinkler systems using municipal water on institutional and commercial properties is permitted for one (1) hour per day between 6pm and 10am on the above schedule.

Plants, flowers and tree wells may be watered by the use of hand held buckets, sprinkler cans or other hand-held containers every day of the week between 6pm and10am.

Watering parks, recreation fields, and other fields and landscaping by the Town, County and School District and other institutions and businesses from landscaping wells not connected to the municipal water system is permitted at any time or day.

No outdoor washing of windows, buildings, patios, sidewalks or streets unless approved in advance or directed by the Town Public Works Department.

The use of temporary meters for construction or filling from fire hydrants by anyone other than Public Works and the Fire Department is prohibited.

All open/outdoor burning is prohibited. High winds and low humidity at this time have resulted in a total burn ban by Taos County, the Town of Taos and all Taos County municipalities.

All minor residential water leaks must be repaired within three (3) days and serious water leaks must be shut off immediately and fully repaired, as certified by a plumber, before being turned on again or no adjustment or credit will be given by the Utility Department and water service may be terminated by the Town.

Water conservation measures will be encouraged in all owner occupied residential new construction or renovations and required in all commercial new construction and renovations approved by the Planning Department, per Town Code, including the use of low flow showers, toilets and faucets.

A citation for these water restrictions may be issued by the Taos Police Department, Town Code Enforcement or Town Utilities Department staff.

In addition, the Town is asking for and encouraging voluntary compliance with the following water conserving measures by residents and businesses:

Use bottled water for drinking and pets, when possible.

Use showers, rather than baths, and limit use to 10 minutes, where possible.

Limit serving tap water in restaurants only to when requested by customers.

Check for and repair leaky toilets and faucets and dripping outdoor hoses.

Install aerators on indoor faucets.

As residents, we all pulled together to reduce water usage by 250,000 gallons per day during the Water Emergency and assured that no one went without water at any time. We are now asking again for everyone in the community to work together to use water wisely and to conserve where possible so that this drought has as small an impact on all of us as possible.

The Town is doing its best to ensure that there is an adequate supply at all times, both now and in the future, and that we keep costs to everyone as low as possible. If we have to buy water or drill new wells to meet increased demand, that will increase the cost of water to us all.

Editor’s Note: Sounds like Stage 5 to me…

Possible Explanation for the “Death of a Tree”
By Paul Bryan Jones,

Taos Plaza White Fir (Abies concolor)

Our White Fir Tree in the Taos Plaza has had many challenges since the tree’s planting in December 1995.
White Fir ideally like moist, fertile soils and full sun. In the site where this tree was located, long periods of dryness with only seasonal moisture had been the condition. Imported soils added in this area were less than ideal for a White Fir Tree.

Over the past two-decades grass plantings and irrigation changed the environment around this tree from dry to a wet state. Soil compaction from frequent walking and community activities around the tree’s critical root zone reduced soil oxygen levels that hindered root development.

White Fir is sensitive to environmental changes which can reduce the longevity of the tree. While this White Fir benefited the Taos Plaza for the past 23 years and was a great Christmas tree, it was not an ideal species for such a high use area. Under ideal circumstances, these introduced tree species have a short lifespan.

New Native Lanceleaf Cottonwood Trees

Recently, two native Lanceleaf Cottonwood Trees (Populus acuminata) were planted to match the reconstructed site conditions. Newly installed sod and irrigation allows for ample soil moisture for the trees and the grass. An independent irrigation system is installed around each tree along with barriers to keep soil compaction from the public to a minimum.

Cottonwood Trees have central taproot systems that can find groundwater sources deep within the earth. Deep taproots are just one reason our large tree canopy throughout the town consists of Cottonwood and Willow Trees.

I have observed that when summer rains occur, water travels through the Taos Plaza allowing for ample moisture to benefit the tree’s roots.

Paul Bryan Jones,
ISA Certified Arborist, ASCA Consulting Arborist
Adjunct Teacher, UNM/Taos,
Masters in Environmental Management, WSCU
Chair: New Mexico Urban Forest Council, Chair: Taos Tree Board

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