Albuquerque— A Grand Opening ceremony Dec. 12 marked the completion of the San Juan-Chama Drinking Water Project, which will make surface water the metro area's primary drinking water source for the first time. The ceremony included transmission of the first purified surface water into the Water Authority's distribution system, which serves about 520,000 people in the metro area.
The $400-million project, some 45 years in the making, will end dependence on an overtaxed aquifer by tapping into surface water transported from the Colorado River basin via the San Juan-Chama Diversion Project. In 1963, Albuquerque city leaders contracted for annual rights to a portion of this water, which descends from the southern Colorado highlands and eventually into the Rio Grande via a series of pipelines, tunnels and reservoirs.
Project construction, which began in 2004, was completed in 2008. Pipeline construction wrapped up in April of this year, and the Water Treatment Plant was finished in November. It included 38 miles of distribution pipeline; an adjustable diversion dam and intake structure on the Rio Grande; a Raw Water Pump Station on the Rio Grande, built to resemble a Spanish mission church, the better to blend in with its surroundings; 8 miles of raw water pipeline to transport water from the Raw Water Pump Station; and a $160-million Water Treatment Plant.