BERNALILLO COUNTY WATER RESOURCES PROGRAM
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
Water Resources Program
Bernalillo County Public Works
2400 Broadway SE
The purpose of the Water Resources Program is to monitor and assess surface and groundwater resources, to recommend policies and implement appropriate programs and projects that protect water quality and conserve water resources for the citizens of Bernalillo County. Current programs and projects include: water conservation, storm water quality, groundwater monitoring, low and moderate-income sewer and water connections in conjunction with the Albuquerque Bernalillo Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) (The PIPE Program), and water and sewer connection program in the South Valley with the Office of Natural Resource Trustee. Water Resources also assists other County departments in water quality compliance, toilet retrofits, water conservation audits and technical recommendations. Water Resources consists of eight staff members.
Does the Water Resources Program have any incentives for water conservation?
Yes. If you are not an ABCWUA customer, the Water Resources Program has a Residential Indoor/Outdoor Audit Program, a High Efficiency Toilet Retrofit Program, and a Rain Barrel Incentive Program. If you are connected to water and sewer services with ABCWUA you can contact them for information about their water conservation program at 768‐3655 or go to www.abcwua.org.
During a Residential Water Conservation Audit, a staff member will come to your home and analyze how you use water indoors and outdoors, provide information and ideas on how to save water, provide low‐flow fixtures for your faucets and showers, and check your toilets to see if they qualify for the High Efficiency Toilet Retrofit Program.
The High Efficiency Toilet Retrofit Program will replace your older high‐flow toilets (toilets made before 1995) with new 1.28 gallons per flush High Efficiency Toilet.
The Rain Barrel Program provides residents with an opportunity to purchase a 100 gallon rain barrel at a greatly reduced rate; as an incentive for people to start harvesting water off their roofs to use for watering plants or flowers around their homes.
Do I qualify for the toilet replacement program if I am on a well?
Yes. As long as you are in the un‐incorporated area of Bernalillo County and not a water customer of the ABCWUA.
Do I qualify for the toilet program if I am in the City?
No, our program is for unincorporated residents only who are not water customers of the ABCWUA. If you are in the city you can use the ABCWUA rebate program listed above.
If I already bought my toilets and installed them can I get a rebate?
No, we have no way of issuing a rebate. You can still sign up for a home water audit where we will supply lowflow‐aerators and shower heads. If you have other toilets that still need to be replaced ,we will look at them.
Do they come in any color other than white?
No, the toilets are white.
Can I keep the old toilet?
No, we destroy the old toilet so it can’t be installed somewhere else.
Do you pay for the plumber to install the toilets?
Yes, we pay for the installation and disposal of the old toilet. If there are problems with the plumbing that require additional work during installation, the homeowner is responsible for those costs. Some examples of extra repairs that may be needed are: a corroded toilet flange, a worn out shut‐off valve, or leaking pipes.
Do you have rebates for washing machines?
No. We are researching other incentive options, but right now the incentives do not include washing machines.
Will the barrel freeze and crack in the winter?
This model is not supposed to crack. However we recommend that you drain the barrel in the winter during very cold periods.
How many Rain Barrels can I receive?
One Rain barrel per legal parcel with a residence.
Wells and Water Resource Availability
Wells and Water Resource Availability
Do I have to permit my well? How do I get my well permitted?
If your well was drilled after 1956, a well permit from the Office of the State Engineer should have been obtained at that time, and it is required for your well to be “legal”. If your well was drilled after 1987, a well permit from Bernalillo County Office of Environmental Health should also have been obtained. In either case, it may be possible to get permits for existing wells from either agency. If you are doing any type of work requiring a permit, or are subdividing your property, it is likely that you will need to work with Bernalillo County Environmental Health to ensure that your well meets current County code requirements, and the well will need to be fully permitted. County requirements are listed in County Well Ordinance 2005‐19. You can obtain a copy by visiting their office at 111 Union Sq SE, or you can view them on‐line at: http://www.bernco.gov/upload/images/environmental_health/06_eh_wellord.pdf.
Do I have to connect to ABCWUA water and sewer if I have an approved well and septic tank?
Currently there no requirement that you have to connect to ABCWUA – supplied water for an existing residence. However, with only a very few, special exceptions, you are required to connect existing structures to ABCWUA sewer if it is available for your property. All new development must connect to both ABCWUA water and sewer, if it is available. Also, you cannot have a well and ABCWUA both supplying water to your home – this is to prevent backflow from your well from contaminating the ABCWUA water system. After connecting to ABCWUA water, you may keep your well (if it’s permitted with the State and County) and use it for exterior irrigation, so long as it’s disconnected from the house supply.
What can I do about an old, unused well on my property?
Unused wells should be properly plugged and abandoned to prevent contaminants from entering the well and the aquifer. Guidance for abandoning a well constructed after 1987 and permitted with the County can be obtained from Bernalillo County Office of Environmental Health by visiting their office at 111 Union Sq SW, or you can view them on‐line at: //upload/images/environmental_health/WellAbandonment.pdf.
Guidance for abandoning a well constructed before 1987 can be obtained from the Office of State Engineer by visiting their office at the Springer Square Bldg., 121 Tijeras NE, Suite 2000, or you can view them on-line at: http://www.seo.state.nm.us.
I have high iron and manganese in my well, how can I treat it?
A filtering system will be needed and can be obtained from several commercial vendors. There is no County program to install or maintain filtration systems. High iron or manganese may be an indicator that septic wastewater discharge is present in the groundwater – the iron and manganese may be a byproduct of the bacterial degradation of the wastewater under certain, high‐water table conditions. High iron and manganese may be naturally occuring in certain areas of the East Mountains. You should also have your well checked for nitrates and for total coliform to ensure that there are no additional problems that need to be addressed.
How far does my well need to be from my septic tank / my neighbors well, the property line?
Offset distances for wells can be found in Bernalillo County’s Individual Well Ordinance. The following table summarizes the off-set distances for individual and multiple household wells.
How deep is it to water on my property?
Depth to water varies widely across the county. In the valley, it is influenced by the operation of the irrigation canals and drains and various acequia operations. In the inner valley, the irrigation canals and the drains control the maximum height to which groundwater will rise. A quick estimate for the valley floor can be made by looking at the water levels in a nearby MRGCD drainage canal (not the ones that flow during irrigation season) or by measuring the water level in a nearby well. We can assist with more localized information. Contact us at email@example.com or by phone at 848-1578.
Can I physically drill my own well to use for outdoor irrigation?
Permitting of all wells and the use of a licensed well driller is recommended for all well installations. Though state law allows for self‐installation under special circumstances, it is not recommended. If you install the well yourself, the well must be “driven” not drilled, installation cannot require use of a drill rig, and the outside casing diameter cannot exceed 2 and 7/8” diameter. A well permit from the Office of the State Engineer and from Bernalillo County Health may still be required and surface completion of the well must still meet County code requirement.
I have a private well permitted by the State and County that I use for outdoor irrigation. Do the water conservation ordinances, and particularly, “time of day” watering requirements still apply?
Yes. The water conservation ordinance still applies, including the provisions regarding water waste and time of day water restrictions for spray irrigation. The Ordinance applies to “all properties within unincorporated Bernalillo County not provided water service by the ABCWUA”. Properties within the incorporated area are generally served by the ABCWUA, which has similar water conservation requirements and conditions. The source of the water only determines which jurisdiction applies, not whether the requirements have to be met. Even properties supplied by MRGCD are subject to water waste provisions if the MRGCD water is applied such that it overflows and runs onto adjacent properties.
Water Quality Testing for Wells
Water Quality Testing for Wells
Who collects the sample for water testing?
Residents can collect their own samples; however, the bottle for collecting the sample must be obtained from the lab you have chosen to process your sample. This is to make sure it is a clean container. Do not rinse or overflow the bottle when taking the sample as they may contain a reagent or chemical necessary to preserve the sample. The lab will review the proper procedures with you if you are unsure of the proper method to collect a sample.
Where can I get my water tested?
There are several labs at which water testing can be done. The lab should be state certified. You should also call to find out if they accept private samples. Some labs do not accept samples from individuals for private property. A list of laboratories can be found in the yellow pages under Laboratories – Analytical, or on-line at www.superpages.com.
How much does it cost?
Cost can vary greatly depending on the type of testing you need to have done. Prices also vary between labs for each test. You will need to contact the lab and get a copy of their rate sheet, or ask for pricing of testing you need to have done.
What should I test my water for?
Common testing parameters include e-coli (Bacti), nitrate-nitrite, chlorine, and minerals such as iron, manganese, calcium, and arsenic. If you are required to get your water tested for permitting, the County lists the parameters that must be tested for in their regulations, which can be obtained at their office located at 111 Union Sq SE and may also be viewed on-line at: //upload/images/environmental_health/Well%20Water%20Analysis%20Information.pdf.
Where do I find information for County well requirements?
What is the PIPE Program?
The PIPE program assists low income households with connection to municipal sewer and/or water lines. The PIPE program funding pays the contractor’s cost for connection from the house to the stub and the Utility Expansion Charges (UEC’s) imposed by the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA), up to the allotted amount for each household. The assistance amount is $4300 per utility connection.
How much does the sewer and/or water connection cost and what cost does the PIPE program cover?
The average cost to install a water yard line generally runs between $1,500 to $2,200, and a sewer yard line generally runs between $2000 and $3000. Costs can vary greatly depending on the requirements of each job, such as the distance from the stub to the house, whether there is a lot of concrete, depth and slope of connection points, etc. The cost of installation is determined by the contractor who bids against other contractors to get the work. The contractor’s cost typically includes equipment, trenching, piping, permits and abandonment of the septic tank. If the PIPE program is not able to cover all the UEC’s charges, the ABCWUA can set up a payment plan for the remaining balance.
How do I qualify for the program?
You must own the house, you must have lived there for at least one year and you must meet the income guidelines. You will need to bring in proof of your household income (last year’s federal tax forms – 1040 etc.), proof you own the home, such as the most recent property tax bill or notice of value and proof that you have resided in the house at least 1 year (a bill or statement dated one year ago with your name and address printed on it), so we can determine if you qualify based on guideline requirements.
If I don’t qualify for the PIPE Program is there any other programs and/or where do I start?
If you do not qualify for PIPE, you may be able to arrange payments with a plumber. You can also obtain a homeowner’s permit and do the work yourself. Some people will dig the trench and then hire the plumber to install the line. For information on the homeowner’s permit, contact the Zoning Building and Planning Department.
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority offers a loan program to applicants. The full payment for the UEC’s is not required at the time you apply for services, only a down payment is required. The remaining UEC balance will be applied to your monthly bill at 7% interest. The Utility Expansion Charge for a home to connect to sewer is currently $1,953 and water is $2,898 ($2,603 for the UEC and $295 for the water meter). The UEC’s are subject to change.
What do I need to do before the PIPE contractor begins installing my sewer or water service?
You will need to make sure all personal items are removed from the installation area. You can also move smaller plants and gravel or any other types of removable landscaping materials that may be lost or damaged during trenching to install your yard line.
You also need to remove any items that could be considered a violation of Environmental Health or Zoning ordinances, such as non-classic inoperable vehicles, any articles being stored in the open, and any refuse or trash that may be present on your property. Information on acceptable items is available from the Environmental Health and Zoning Departments.
Should I start digging the trench to help the PIPE contractor get started?
DO NOT do any of the trenching or other activities associated with installing your service. Your efforts may affect the warranties associated with work to be done by the PIPE contractor.
What items are covered by the PIPE Program?
The PIPE Program can cover the permitting and installation of a yard line from the service point outside of your home to the stub located along your property line. Abandonment of existing wells and septic systems can also be included, as needed. The program generally covers the cost of removing and reinstalling fence materials if needed, and removal of concrete and asphalt along trenching routes. The program then covers as much of the UEC charges, up to the allowable amount per property, as possible for each client. Installation of additional items such as a stub to connect services to the main line, a lift pump for sewer that cannot meet gravity flow requirements or yard lines across long distances may increase construction costs above the allowable funding amount for connection on a property. Costs above the allowed amount may not be covered by the PIPE Program.
Reinstallation of concrete, asphalt, gravel, plants, or the damage or loss of landscaping or surfacing items along the trenching area are NOT covered by the program or its contractors. Protection or removal of these items to prevent damage and the replacement of removed items and structures thereof are the sole responsibility of the homeowner. Specific concerns can be addressed during the survey conducted on the property by PIPE staff members before installation of the utility services.
Can I have other work done by the plumber when he installs my utility connection?
Yes. You can contract the plumber for additional work, but you will be responsible for paying the cost of the additional work and payment must be made in full to the contractor for that work before the work is started. The PIPE Program does not warranty or cover any work not required under the PIPE guidelines. Any changes requested by the client that increase the costs over basic installation fees must also be paid for by the client before those changes will be made. All work done by contractors must comply with plumbing codes.
Who do I call if there is a problem with my utility service after it is installed?
If there are any issues, problems, or concerns with your service during or after it is installed, you should contact the PIPE Program staff. The staff members will ensure the problems are addressed and resolved by the contractor as quickly as possible. Notification provided to PIPE staff may also provide an extension of warranty coverage for certain repairs. You can contact PIPE staff by calling 848-1524 or Bernalillo County Public Works at 848-1500 for assistance or more information.
Bernalillo County Storm water Program
Bernalillo County Storm water Program
What is storm water runoff?
Storm water runoff is water from rain or melting snow that runs off a drainage area (watershed) instead of being absorbed by the ground. This runoff flows, often through streets, gutters, storm sewers and arroyos, to the nearest water body.
What is polluted runoff?
Storm water runoff picks up and carries many substances that can pollute natural waters. Some of these substances – like pesticides, fertilizers, oil and soap – are even harmful in low quantities. Others – like sediment from construction, pet waste and landscaping wastes – are bad for water quality when there is too much in the storm water.
Why is storm water quality important?
The water in the Rio Grande is used for agriculture, recreation, wildlife habitat and a drinking water supply. Storm water runoff in the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County area flows directly into the Rio Grande with little or no treatment. Polluted runoff lowers the quality of water in the Rio Grande, impairing use by humans and by sensitive animals such as fish, amphibians, insects, mammals, birds and reptiles.
What are the particular challenges regarding storm water quality in Albuquerque/Bernalillo County?
Bacteria - One category of pollutant that is particularly difficult to control is bacteria from animal and human waste. Fecal bacteria are the pollutant of most concern for the Rio Grande in the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County area, and the reason for its being classified as “impaired” by the NM Environment Department. As with most storm water contaminants, fecal bacteria pollution can be best reduced by preventing wastes from coming into contact with storm water by picking up after pets and keeping septic tank systems in proper working order.
Sediment – Storm water erodes bare soil, such as that found on construction sites and bare lots, and can transport large quantities of sediment to the Rio Grande. Preventing storm water erosion, by landscaping bare lots and installing erosion barriers at construction sites, is the most effective way to prevent sediment pollution.
Trash and litter – Discarded wrappers, containers and cups clog storm sewers and arroyos during every storm event, create eyesores in water bodies, and can endanger wildlife when trash accumulates in the river. While some trash is captured by screens in the storm sewer system, proper disposal of trash and garbage is the most effective way to reduce this very visible type of pollutant.
Terrain – The relatively steep terrain in our watershed causes storm water to flow rapidly with potentially dangerous force, making it difficult or impossible to capture and treat the storm water.
What are Albuquerque/Bernalillo County area agencies doing about storm water pollution?
In 2003, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a joint Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit to the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA), the City of Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico and the New Mexico Department of Transportation, under Phase I of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) storm water permitting program.
In 2007, Bernalillo County and other small “urbanized areas” submitted applications to discharge storm water under the NPDES Phase II “General Permit for Small MS4s in New Mexico and on Indian Country lands in New Mexico and Oklahoma”. As part of this application, Bernalillo County developed a Storm Water Quality Management Plan to describe how Bernalillo County would protect storm water quality. The plan includes: public outreach and education, public involvement and participation, illicit discharge detection and elimination, construction site storm water runoff control, post-construction storm water management, and pollution prevention/good housekeeping. The Bernalillo County Commission also revised the Storm Drainage Ordinance to include storm water quality requirements (to see the ordinance, visit Ordinance Article III Storm Drainage ).
Several local agencies, including those listed above, along with the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority and the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District, have formed the Storm Water Quality Team (www.keeptheriogrand.org) to inform the public about the importance of storm water runoff quality. The Team has produced a 30-minute informational video, available from any of the Storm Water Quality Team member agencies.
What are Best Management Practices for storm water quality improvement?
The EPA requires the use of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce the discharge of storm water-borne pollutants. Example BMPs include public education programs to reduce the amount of feces into storm water, rain water harvesting to reduce storm water amounts (and help water conservation), and generally just slowing down the speed of storm water, and putting less pollution in the path of storm water.
BMPs can also be incorporated into the ways that new buildings and neighborhoods are designed, to minimize environmental impacts. The Bernalillo County Zoning, Planning and Building Department encourages the use of low impact development (LID) principles for new developments.
What can I do to prevent storm water pollution?
If you own a car, maintain it so it doesn’t leak oil or other fluids. Be sure to wash it off the pavement or at a car wash so the dirt and soap don’t flow into the storm sewer.
If you have a yard, do not over-fertilize your grass, and do not over use pesticides or herbicides. Never apply fertilizers before a heavy rain. If fertilizer falls onto the driveway or sidewalk, sweep it up instead of hosing it away. Mulch or compost leaves and grass clippings to keep them out of the gutter. Turn roof downspouts away from hard surfaces like your driveway, and try to use the water to irrigate your trees and other plants.
If you own a septic system, maintain it properly by having it pumped every three to five years. Be sure that your septic system is adequate for the volume of sanitary waste produced by your household.
Never put chemicals down the drain into a septic system, because chemicals can harm the system or directly pollute water.
If you own a dog, pick up his or her waste from your yard or when you take him or her for a walk.
Dispose of the waste either in the toilet or in the trash.
Keep household chemicals tightly sealed and protected from rainfall. Dispose of old or unwanted chemicals at a household hazardous waste collection site or event.
Don’t sweep leaves and grass into the street; don’t put anything down the storm drains. This will keep them from clogging and also protect water quality.
Pick up trash and debris so that it does not get into the storm water system.