By Ronald N. Borunda and Cassie McClure
Published in Las Cruces Sun News 10.21.2021
Water in Las Cruces comes to our taps without too much thought for the average resident. Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) provides safe, clean water through not just pipes and filters but also through regulations enacted to keep our water safe throughout the United States.
In 1912, the U.S. Public Health Service Act was enacted to keep communicable diseases, such as typhoid, out of the water through chlorination.
“Before it was more of an honor system, but people cut corners, and people got sick,” said LCU Interim Deputy Director Water Ronald Borunda. “But, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 (SDWA) was the game-changer for water safety.”
SDWA is a key federal law from 1974, substantially amended in 1986, 1996, and 2018, protecting public water supplies from harmful contaminants. The act is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“All great societies have things in common, but one is the access and control of their freshwater supply, said Borunda. “In the U.S., the biggest update to how entities like LCU manage their water supply is set by the SDWA, which set the guidelines for the operators of water systems throughout the country.”
Under the SDWA, EPA sets the standards for drinking water quality and monitors states, local authorities, and water suppliers who enforce those standards. As part of the SDWA, the EPA has set maximum contaminant levels and treatment requirements for over 90 contaminants in public drinking water.
“The trust we can have in our water has come through legislation, standards, and the hard work of people on the ground who make sure that tests are run from wells and pipes that spread throughout the city,” said Borunda. He explained that the city’s growth increases the need to make sure the water is adequate and safe. In Las Cruces, that is done through continuous testing.
LCU’s Jorge A. Garcia Water Quality Laboratory is a nearly 12k square foot building where the testing happens. The laboratory, built in 2019, is nearly five times larger than the previous one. A key in its design was to separate water and wastewater testing into two different lab spaces to eliminate opportunities for cross-contamination.
LCU Water Quality Lab Manager Luis Guerra said that from the five water systems that make up the confines of the city – Las Cruces Municipal Water System, Hacienda Acres Water System, Las Alturas Estates Water System, San Andres Estates Water System, and University Estates Water System – 1,591 samples were sent to the New Mexico Environment Department in keeping with SDWA.
“SDWA also lends itself to transparency that a utility can provide,” said Borunda, “so that every resident can see the quality of their water.” Every public water system or community water supplier must provide an annual report to its customers. The annual report for Las Cruces residents can be found at: https://www.las-cruces.org/1294/Water-Quality-Resources
LCU Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: Testing, like what is being done by LCU Water Quality Lab Technician Evangelina Dominguez and LCU Water Quality Lab Manager Luis Guerra, is what helps keep LCU adhering to regulations to keep water in Las Cruces safe.