Water For Albuquerque

By Bruce Higgins | September 28, 2010

The cover story of the Nov. 28, 2005, issue of Rocky Mountain Construction featured the diversion dam on the Rio Grande on the north side of Albuquerque. As stated in that story, the Colorado River Compact of 1922 established an allotment of water from the Colorado River for New Mexico. The San Juan River crosses the very northwest corner of New Mexico and is the source of that water. The diversion tunnel under the Continental Divide and Heron Lake, both near Chama, N.M., were started in the 1960s and completed in 1972. However, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority was not able to actually use the San Juan-Chama water until 2003 and until then provided the majority of the water allotment to farmers in the region.

Besides the diversion dam/intake structure/fish passage project previously featured, construction is either now in progress, scheduled to start soon, or completed on other major portions of the overall facility. When completed, the San Juan-Chama water will be the source of 70 percent of the Albuquerque metropolitan area's drinking water, relieving the threat of depleting the underground aquifer that now provides the city's water. First construction on the facilities began in 2004 as part of a four-year program to be completed in 2008. Calendar year 2006 promises to be the busiest for the entire construction program, which has an estimated cost of $375 million. The magnitude of the job is impressive for the city of Albuquerque in many ways. Construction of water pipelines so large that they can be walked in by men and women of average height is hard for the citizens of Albuquerque to imagine.

To better understand the overall project, it is easiest to look at it as having four major units: non-potable water use facilities, raw water supply to the water treatment plant, the water treatment plant itself, and the potable water distribution system.

Non-potable water use facilities

Almost adjacent to the diversion dam/intake structure/fish passage on the east side of the river is the reuse pump station, completed as part of the "North I-25 project" in late 2005 at a cost of $30 million and including the diversion, four reservoirs, four pump stations, and many miles of pipelines. This project, however, had nothing to do with the drinking water project. This facility and its associated pipelines provide non-potable water to Balloon Fiesta Park, public parks and golf courses in the Northeast heights, primarily north of Spain Avenue. The water is solely for irrigation purposes and the pipelines are distinctively different to avoid an accidental connection into the drinking water system

Raw water supply

Near and to the east of the diversion dam, the raw water pump station will be built. This segment of the project was bid March 7, 2006, and an award to RMCI has been recommended. Design consultant is Boyle Engineering, Wayne Welty managing. This phase of the project simply moves the water from the lowest point in the system to the water treatment plant, utilizing high capacity electric pumps to feed the 72-inch pipeline receiving the water. The station has 12 500-horsepower motor-driven pumps capable of ultimately pumping 120 million gallons of water per day (83,333 gallons per minute), although the initial pumping rate will be 92 million gallons per day (63,900 gallons per minute). The water is supplied to the pump station through two 60-inch-diameter suction lines and a 20-foot-deep wet well sump located below grade of the pump station. The pump station will be built over and around the sump.

This pump station is the sole source of water delivery to the treatment plant, making it necessary to have fail-safe systems to maintain the flow of water in the event of various types of failures. The pump station is powered by two separate electrical sources, making it possible for the pump station to supply approximately 80 percent of the required pumping capacity in the event of a failure of one of the electrical sources. In addition, the pump station is controlled by a radio link from the treatment plant, but is capable of operating automatically through two separate on-site control systems, each controlling half of the system, as with the separate electrical sources. The raw water pump station is a 12,000-square-foot building with a southwestern pueblo style architecture designed to complement the local architectural styles. Raw water pipeline No. 1 connects to the pump station outlet, and raw water pipeline No. 2 will carry the diverted river water to the water treatment plant in the Renaissance Center near Montano and Chappell roads.

Raw water pipeline No. 1, 72 inches in diameter, is a 17,500-linear-foot steel pipe taking water from the raw water pump station near the diversion dam to Paseo Del Norte at the North Diversion Channel. Boyle Engineering is the designer, and Bradbury Stamm/S.J. Louis is the contractor on this phase, which is expected to be completed in December 2006.

Raw water pipeline No. 2 to the water treatment plant has yet to be awarded. It will consist of 14,600 linear feet of 72-inch steel pipe running from Paseo Del Norte at the North Diversion Channel to the new water treatment plant near Chappell and Montano roads. Boyle Engineering has designed the project and AUI is the apparent low bidder. A start date has not been scheduled; however, it is tentatively expected to be in May 2006.

Water treatment plant

The water treatment plant is a $160-million facility located in the Renaissance Center near Montano and Chappell roads. The San Juan/Chama water being processed will have been flowing approximately 200 miles in surface river channels that contain particulate matter such as turbidity, bacteria, microbes (including cryptosporidium and giardia). and general sediments. The water diverted to the treatment plant will be made safe and pleasant-tasting to drink. After processing, the output will be introduced into the water transmission system to blend with the existing treated underground water flowing through the city of Albuquerque water system. Capacity of the treatment plant is 120 million gallons per day.

The treatment process employs the most current state-of-the-art system and consists of separate processes to achieve maximum purification. The first stage removes grit or heavy particles in grit basins. From there, the water passes into two 50-million-gallon pre-sedimentation ponds to be located on the north side of the water treatment facility. The raw water will be held in these ponds for approximately 24 hours before being pumped into the mixing facility, where a coagulant chemical is added to remove turbidity, or muddiness. Next, the water passes through the flocculation facility and into the sedimentation tanks where most of the turbidity settles out. The process being used consists of the addition of ferric chloride with the Actiflo flocculation/sedimentation process. This process provides improved removal compared to conventional enhanced sedimentation processes without the need for large concrete settling ponds, thus utilizing less than 20 percent of the land area to accomplish the same results.

The water, freed of most of the mud, then passes into the ozone contactors, where ozone is added to the water to kill bacteria and oxidize organics in the water. The ozonation disinfection process is actually conducted twice, in addition to the ability to use hydrogen peroxide between the two ozonation chambers for complete oxidation of any organic matter. From there, the water flows into the biological filtration facilities, which remove any remaining turbidity and other contaminants, including microbes. This is a granular activated carbon filtration process that absorbs any organic materials remaining in the water. The water is then chlorinated before passing into the water storage tanks from which it is pumped into the distribution system supplying water to both east and west sides of Albuquerque.

The process is proven to exceed EPA standards for organic and inorganic contaminants and uses the river water quality data that has been compiled for many years. The process also removes any pharmaceutically active compounds that may have entered the river water. The authority believes the process being used is the best available to purify the water and remove the maximum amounts of bacteria and organics from the source water.

Potable water distribution

It is not enough just to take the water from the river and make it drinkable for city residents. Major new distribution pipelines are needed to carry the high volumes of water to existing reservoirs and other major distribution points within the city. Several pipeline contracts will make that need a reality.

One individual project, the Don Pipeline-South Segment, was completed in November 2005. That project consisted of 23,000 linear feet of 36-, 42- and 48-inch pipelines connecting the College Reservoir with the Don Reservoir, including a crossing under I-40. The design consultant was HDR, and the contractor was Shumate Constructors/TIC. This segment is in the vicinity of I-40 and 98th Street.

The College Pipeline-Middle Segment, consisting of 13,600 linear feet of 54- and 60-inch pipe beginning on 98th Street around the southern edge of the Ladera Golf Course and connecting to the Westside pipeline at Atrisco Road, was scheduled for completion in February 2006. Design consultant is HDR, and RMCI is general contractor on the project.

The Westside Pipeline was scheduled for completion in March 2006. That segment consists of 2,265 linear feet of 36-inch pipe and 2,561 linear feet of 60-inch pipe extending from the intersection of Atrisco and Ladera, crossing Coors Road and connecting with the Rio Grande Crossing Pipeline. AUI is the contractor for this project designed by Bohannan Huston Inc.

The East Valley Pipeline is one of the more highly visible, complex projects that has attracted a lot of attention due to the involvement of major intersections and high traffic areas. This project, designed by DMJM and being built by RMCI, consists of 9,500 linear feet of 66-inch pipe starting at Chappell Road at the North Diversion Channel, east under Singer to Jefferson, tunneling under I-25 to Osuna Road, and east under Osuna to the western edge of the Arroyo del Oso Golf Course. This project is expected to be complete in May 2006.

The Rio Grande Crossing Pipeline, also expected to be completed in May 2006, consists of 1,000 linear feet of 60-inch pipe and 4,000 linear feet of 54-inch welded steel pipe. It begins at Sequoia Road on the west side, crosses the Rio Grande and the Bosque, and ends at the west end of Campbell Road on the east side of the river. This phase was designed by Bohannan Huston Inc. and AUI is the contractor.

The largest diameter pipe on the projects is 72 inches. The Eastside Pipeline consists of 15,150 linear feet of this 72-inch pipe. This line starts adjacent to the Alameda Drain at Second Street just south of Candelaria Road, runs east under Candelaria to Edith Boulevard, north along Edith to the Alameda Lateral, then east along Montano Road to Renaissance Boulevard. This segment ends at the surface water treatment plant near Montano and Chappell roads. The East Valley Pipeline project is expected to be completed about November 2006. This segment was designed by Bohannan-Huston Inc. and is being constructed by AUI.

West Valley Pipeline connects to the Rio Grande Crossing Pipeline at the west end of Campbell Road, near the river, and connects to the East Valley and includes 3,690 linear feet of 60-inch pipe and 10,390 linear feet of 66-inch pipe following several laterals and drains in the North Valley. Part of this project includes an improved bike and pedestrian trail in the Bosque. Once more, the design engineer is Bohannan Huston Inc. and the contractor is RMCI. Currently, this segment of the project is expected to be completed in December 2006.

Construction of the Leyendecker Pipeline started in February 2006. This segment consists of 11,200 linear feet of 42-, 54- and 60-inch pipe beginning at San Pedro and Arvilla Avenue and ending at San Pedro and Osuna. The design consultant is ASCG, and the contractor is Shumate/ERS. This phase is expected to be completed in December 2006.

Charles Wells Pipeline consists of 18,000 linear feet of 36-, 42- and 54-inch pipe starting at Alvarado and Roma avenues and ending at San Pedro and Arvilla Avenue. The project was to bid in March 2006. ASCG is the design engineer. The completion schedule has not been announced, however, work is expected to start in June 2006.

Burton Pipeline phase consists of 15,200 linear feet of 36-inch pipe beginning at the Burton Reservoir and ending at Alvarado Drive and Roma Avenue. The design is by ASCG. The construction contract has not been awarded, thus work has not been scheduled. It is expected to bid in September 2006.

The Coronado Pipeline, with 18,000 linear feet of 30-inch pipe, will begin on Academy Road and end at the Coronado Reservoir on Palomas Avenue. The designer is DMJM. The contract has yet to be awarded. Work is expected to start in June 2006.

Much of this pipeline work involves working in existing streets and major intersections that have all types of existing utilities, including communication cables, water, sanitary sewer, storm drains, gas, and electric. Many thousands of square yards of pavement will be removed and replaced as a result of the construction. Traffic flow will be interrupted during the construction. This is the most significant utility construction project in the history of Albuquerque and in the state of New Mexico. This is a project that will long be remembered in the construction history of the area and a major change from the long use of aquifer-supplied water.

The use of this purified water will substantially improve water quality, as the city of Albuquerque has been allowed EPA exceptions on several water quality issues in recent years. These water quality problems will no longer exist after the San Juan/Chama water is in use. Changing the segmented well water purification system that has supplied the city of Albuquerque as it has evolved for decades would have been impractical and cost-prohibitive. The San Juan-Chama Drinking Water Project is the primary means for the Utility Authority to comply with the new drinking water standard for arsenic. The New Mexico Environment Department has granted the Utility Authority a three-year exemption to get the Drinking Water Project on-line to meet the new arsenic standard. Once the Drinking Water Project is on-line, arsenic compliance will be made simpler in the short-term, but long-term treatment for arsenic removal from the existing groundwater wells may be required. Because of these factors, the overall value to the taxpayers is significantly enhanced by the San Juan-Chama Drinking Water Project now under construction.

The San Juan-Chama Drinking Water Project in this phase has no federal or state funding; rather, it is totally user-funded. The cost is being paid with approximately 15 percent cash set aside and 85 percent bonds voted by the taxpayers of Bernalillo County. A series of water rate increases have and will provide the cash funding for now and the future. The entire project is under the direction of John M. Stomp III, P.E., water resources manager for the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and a major source of information for this article. Additional information can be obtained from the official website at www.sjcdrinkingwater.org.

About the Author: Bruce Higgins has been in the New Mexico construction industry for 38 years, 20 years as general manager of Tom Growney Equipment Inc. (John Deere Construction Equipment, Bobcat, Dynapac, Sakai, and Broce Broom distributor) and 18 years as a manager/officer for two major contracting firms based in Albuquerque.