BLOOMFIELD — Bloomfield utility customers will see an increase in water rates following the City Council's approval of an agreement with Bloomfield Irrigation District.
The City Council approved the new agreement during a meeting Monday evening.
City Manager George Duncan said if customers use 5,000 gallons a month, they will pay $1.25 more for water.
This is because Bloomfield will be paying 25 cents rather than 7 cents for every thousand gallons delivered through the irrigation district’s ditch. Duncan said the customers will not be paid for water loss at the city’s reservoir, treatment plant or distribution system.
The higher rates will pay for reliable water delivery.
Bloomfield Irrigation District Board member Leonard Trujillo described the new agreement as an investment for the city.
“Together we can furnish the city with good water,” Trujillo said.
The additional money will help the irrigation district maintain and repair the 100-year-old ditch.
The ditch is the main source and only reliable source of drinking water to the City of Bloomfield, which also provides water to Blanco and the Harvest Gold subdivision.
Compromised reached after years of dispute
The city and the irrigation district have been disputing the rates Bloomfield pays for water delivered to its storage reservoir through the Bloomfield Irrigation District ditch. The irrigation district raised the rates to 50 cents per thousand gallons about four years ago, but the city argued that a 10-year contract prevented Bloomfield Irrigation District from raising the rates.
Trujillo said the city first contracted with the irrigation district in 1955 at a rate of 3 cents per thousand gallons. The rates have only increased twice since then — first to 5 cents per thousand gallons and then to 7 cents per thousand gallons.
Meanwhile, Trujillo said the ditch infrastructure “started going to heck” and salt cedars began taking over.
The irrigation district needed more money to repair and maintain the ditch, which led to the rate increase.
“We couldn’t do anything with 7 cents (per thousand gallons),” Trujillo said.
Over the course of several years, the city has racked up a debt of $524,000 to the irrigation district. Bloomfield Irrigation District has agreed to forgive the majority of that debt. Instead, Bloomfield will pay $97,499.57.
The new agreement approved by both the irrigation district’s board and the City Council means Bloomfield will pay 25 cents per thousand gallons this year and 30 cents per thousand gallons next year. A new contract will be negotiated at the end of 2020.
Bloomfield agrees to assist irrigation district
In exchange for the lower rates, Bloomfield agreed to assist Bloomfield Irrigation District in various ways.
Earlier this year, the city teamed up with the irrigation district to seek capital outlay money from the state. Local legislators requested more than $645,000 on behalf of the irrigation district to repair a flume on the ditch. The Legislature approved the request and the governor signed off on the bill.
The flume transports water over an arroyo in Bloomfield. If that capital outlay money is not enough to pay for the repairs, Bloomfield has agreed to pay up to $100,000 of the costs.
“Without that flume, without that ditch, we just don’t have water, folks.” Duncan said.
The city assisted the irrigation district with a temporary repair of the flume over the winter. Bloomfield paid about $10,000 for that temporary fix.
Bloomfield will partner with the irrigation district in the future to assist with engineering and projects on the ditch.
For example, Duncan said the city recently spent several thousand dollars helping clean up the ditch in the McDaniel Canyon area.
The City of Bloomfield also received the ability to extend trail systems. The Bloomfield Irrigation District will allow the city to develop non-motorized trails on ditch easements. The city will also need several property owners to agree to these trails.
Duncan said those trails could be a huge benefit to the community.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.