Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority Uses Collaboration to Protect Watershed Health
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) provides water and wastewater service to the greater Albuquerque metropolitan area of central New Mexico, managing a 2,400-mile collection system and treating more than 50 million gallons of wastewater every day. The agency established the Albuquerque Area Watershed Collaboration Program to build partnerships to help protect watershed health. With support from local, state and federal agencies, the utility encourages collaboration with forest managers, local stormwater managers, regulatory agencies, educators, environmental groups, agricultural interests, and the general public.
There are many examples of how the Albuquerque Area Watershed Collaboration Program has helped ABCWUA further environmental protection and community outreach.
During the severe drought in 2018, the ABCWUA leased its surface water supply from upstream reservoirs to the federal government to help ensure continued flows in the Rio Grande. The supplemental water benefited fish, wildlife, and farmers.
To better plan for catastrophic climatic events and coordinate watershed management efforts in northern New Mexico, the ABCWUA partnered with The Nature Conservancy and other entities in the Middle Rio Grande (MRG) to form the Rio Grande Water Fund (RGWF). The RGWF, through ABCWUA leadership, now has more than 80 chartered signatories. This partnership helps increase watershed yield reliability, improves runoff water quality, and reduces the likelihood of catastrophic wildfire through thinning, controlled burns, and stream erosion mitigation.
Through a multi-agency collaboration, the ABCWUA worked on a watershed-based municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) that promotes low-impact urban development and green infrastructure. The ABCWUA also manages regional pollution prevention advocacy, source-water monitoring and clean-up activities. This collaboration also produced a source water protection website and video to provide customers with education and resources on watershed protection – nmsourcewaterprotection.com.
The ABCWUA is committed to engaging with and educating the public, including involving them in its planning process. Through its annual “Customer Conversations” forums, the utility informs its customers of current and future challenges using interactive activities and encourages feedback and suggestions. Topics covered have included infrastructure renewal, reuse, source water protection, climate variability, water quality, and service levels.
The ABCWUA’s education program reaches over 20,000 students per year with a primary goal to inform and inspire students (and their parents) to conserve and protect limited water resources. This program includes teaching students about where their water comes from, how our supply of water in the desert is limited, and where the water goes after they use it.
The Albuquerque Area Watershed Collaboration Program was recognized with a National Environmental Achievement Award in the Watershed Collaboration category during NACWA’s Winter Conference in February. Congratulations to the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and everyone involved!