When public works director Steven Bailey measured a year ago, the water table sat at 129 feet below the ground, and village workers dropped the well's pump down to 145 feet, to make sure they had a good solid supply.
The village knew the water table was dropping from its main well, but officials acknowledge they took no steps beyond lowering the pump to ensure a stable supply. "I figured we'd have a little bit of time," Bailey said.
Magdalena water customers, Bailey acknowledged, did little to reduce their consumption. "Unfortunately," he said, "we're not the most conservative of water users."
While solid numbers are hard to come by, some in the state's water management community say they believe there are fewer small community water problems in 2013 than in the last major drought, of 2002-03. ... many communities threatened by drought last time around have upgraded their systems, making them more resilient.
"Water tables are dropping in a lot of areas of the state," said Bill Conner, deputy director of the New Mexico Rural Water Association.
All across the state, groundwater pumpers are seeing declining aquifers and decreasing well production, said Dennis McQuillan, head of the New Mexico Environment Department's Source Water Protection Bureau.
Drillers report an increase in calls from homeowners who rely on their own wells, rather than a community system. "It's pretty widespread," said Wes Mack of Mack's Drilling in Raton. "We're drilling wells left and right."
"Even before the drought, we were seeing groundwater depletion," McQuillan said.
Large communities like Albuquerque, where most New Mexicans live, have big budgets and deep wells to fall back on during a drought. They are generally weathering the current drought well. "The vast majority of our population has adequate water supply," said John Longworth, chief of the Water Use and Conservation Bureau at the New Mexico Office of State Engineer. [adequate water supply = for how long? At what rates?]
Smaller communities, which generally depend on shallower aquifers and smaller budgets to meet their water needs, are at higher risk when drought hits.
In 2002-03, some 70 small New Mexico communities around the state reported running out of water at some point, according to a 2005 state post-mortem [report]. So far this year, just 10 community water systems have reported water shortages, most notably Magdalena and Maxwell, the two villages hardest hit.
Almost all of these 'emergencies' were in fact due to a chronic lack of adequate management, maintenance, and system planning," the report concluded.
I think it's the result of incompetence," said Hoss Fosso, who is retired and lives with his wife in Magdalena. He has been driving to Socorro to buy drinking water to use at his house. "It should be a priority to make sure you're covered and have a back up." [Those people in charge are dummies; it should be a priority that the dummies have me covered...]