By Cassie McClure
Published in Las Cruces Bulletin 5.06.22
If it’s a Monday, Wednesday, or a Friday, it’s a day to make the rounds for a crew of six in the Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Water Production program. Each of the six has their own color-coordinated checklist for a specific area of city. LCU Water Production Operator Horacio Palacios currently has the yellow paper, which covers the wells, booster stations, and tanks in the West Mesa.
Before he heads out, he checks the LCU monitoring system, called SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition). Each LCU location throughout the city is equipped to report back the pressures of the valves or the levels in the tanks and whether doors are opened. But, sometimes, eyes on the site are the most important.
Palacios has 15 years of water experience and 10 years previously in water distribution. “I came from fixing main breaks and was ready to learn the next part of the water system,” he said. He explained that many of his coworkers came up the same way.
“We all started in the mud together,” he laughed. Now the team shares the responsibility to rotate their areas every three months to stay fresh. Palacios’ first stop was the water tank and booster station next to the airport. Each time he opened a door, he called back on the radio to his office to explain an alert that would pop up on SCADA. Checking valves and marking down the readings, Palacios checks filters and chlorine levels by taking a sample. If the water tested turns purple, it’s detecting the right amount.
Palacios knows that each door could be a new challenge, from a leaking pipe to a rattlesnake, from an unexplained power outage or a dip in pressure explained by a gush of water. He’ll make a note of any larger projects he might get help with or parts for to come back later that day. For larger projects, like upgrades or changing the oil on well turbines, the crew dedicates Tuesdays and Thursdays to knock out the tasks together.
“It may seem like a routine, but every day is different,” he said. “And we take the responsibility seriously to ensure that our infrastructure stays safe and operates efficiently, 24/7, 365 days a year.”
LCU – Your Utility Connection. 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 & 2: (Above) LCU Water Production Operator Horacio Palacios checks the water pressure valves. (Right) Palacios checks the chlorine level in the water.
PHOTO 3: LCU Water Production Operator Horacio Palacios radios into the office as he opens the door at a LCU facility to make his rounds.