Contamination leaves NM town with 20 days of clean water

West

(NewsNation) — Contamination has left a northern New Mexico town with less than three weeks worth of clean water.

Wildfires that spread through the northern part of the state earlier this year tainted the water supply for the city of Las Vegas, forcing the town to distribute bottled water and cut consumption.

“We’re very fortunate in that the community has been very supportive through this crisis,” Mayor Louie Trujillo said Sunday on “NewsNation Prime.” “Everyone is doing a fantastic job in conserving the water that we do have.”

The city’s watershed was burned over in the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire, and now debris is running off into the Gallinas River. The current filtration system can’t handle the excess contaminants, leaving the city looking elsewhere for a clean water supply.

Residents have cut their usage by about 40% to 50% of typical levels, Trujillo said, and officials are investigating tapping into other nearby reservoirs, among other solutions.

“We’re relying now mostly on a temporary filtration system,” Trujillo said.

The cleanup effort could take up to 10 years, Trujillo has been told. It could mean having to completely replace the city’s water filtration system.

“We’re told that we’re in this for quite some time,” Trujillo said. “Now we will have to design and pay for a huge improvement or replacement of our filtration system.”

As climate change results in hotter temperatures, drier air and more frequent wildfires, the economic costs of natural disasters are rising. Flooding in Dallas last week resulted in an estimated $6 billion in damages.

Economist Rebecca Ryan said the insurance market is facing higher claims than its ever had. Additionally, the White House has estimated climate change will cost the U.S. $2 trillion each year by the end of the century.

“This is more than the value of Google,” Ryan said. “Sometimes those numbers don’t include things like loss of life … so I think that’s probably a pretty conservative number.”

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