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Wastewater rates may increase 34 percent for City of Las Cruces

Blake Gumprecht, Las Cruces Sun-News Published 6:00 a.m. MT Feb. 28, 2019 | Updated 7:43 a.m. MT Feb. 28, 2019Buy PhotoLas Cruces’ East Mesa Water Reclamation Facility. (Photo: Suzanne Michaels / For the Sun-News)LAS CRUCES — If you live in the city of Las Cruces, your water bill just went up and your sewer bill is…

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Blake Gumprecht, Las Cruces Sun-News
Published 6:00 a.m. MT Feb. 28, 2019 | Updated 7:43 a.m. MT Feb. 28, 2019

LAS CRUCES — If you live in the city of Las Cruces, your water bill just went up and your sewer bill is likely next.

Las Cruces Utilities presented to the City Council at a work session on Monday a plan for increasing wastewater rates. No council members expressed objections to the proposal so that it seems likely to be approved at a future council meeting.

Monthly bills would increase about 34 percent for average residential users, if the rate increase is approved, not including taxes and other fees.

Las Cruces Utilities, while part of the city government of Las Cruces, is entirely self-supporting, so its income must equal its costs. But the department currently produces $4.2 million in revenues per year less than its needs.

To make up for the shortfall, the department presented two rate increase options to council. One would increase the rates at once, while the other would implement the increase over a three-year period. Council opted for the three-year phased increase with the recent water rate increase.

If the increase were to be implemented all at once, the monthly access charge would increase from $5.38 to $8.20 for all customers, an increase of 51 percent. The usage rate would increase to $1.98 per 1,000 gallons of water use for the first 3,000 gallons and to $3.76 per 1,000 gallons for use above 3,000 gallons.

The access charge and usage fees are added to calculate the total bill, before taxes and other fees. The increments for the usage rate have changed so are not directly comparable.

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Jorge Garcia, director of Las Cruces Utilities, told councilors that average residential customers use about 5,000 gallons of water a month. Their monthly bills would increase from $16.15 to $21.66, excluding taxes.

If the rate increase were phased in over three years, monthly bills for average users would increase from $16.15 today to $18.70 in the first year, $20.00 in the second year, and $21.66 in the third year.

Garcia also provided councilors a chart that compared monthly bills for average users in Las Cruces to rates in nine other cities, including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Rio Rancho, and Alamogordo in New Mexico and El Paso in Texas.

Even with the increased rates, bills for average users in Las Cruces would still be lower than in all the comparison cities.

“Our goal was to keep the residential impacts to a minimum,” Garcia said.

Blake Gumprecht may be reached at 575-541-5453 or bgumprecht@lcsun-news.com.

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Las Cruces

Businesses reminded to bag it, tie it, keep it clean when it comes to trash disposal

Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels, Utilities Connection Published 8:24 a.m. MT March 24, 2019 Las Cruces Utilities reminds businesses not to overfill dumpsters. (Photo: Las Cruces Utilities)Businesses: It’s time to check and ensure that your staff is making the best use of your solid waste service. A few simple rules, which are also part of the…

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Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels, Utilities Connection
Published 8:24 a.m. MT March 24, 2019

Businesses: It’s time to check and ensure that your staff is making the best use of your solid waste service. A few simple rules, which are also part of the Las Cruces Municipal Code:

  • Bag your trash and tie your trash bags!
  • Put trash bags in the dumpster — not on top and not on the ground.
  • Don’t overfill your dumpster and keep the enclosure clean around your bins.

“Sometimes it’s carelessness, or not understanding the solid waste regulations. But sometimes it’s a matter of high staff turn around in businesses, and new workers forget — or were never taught — best practices,” says Miguel Fernandez Las Cruces Utilities Solid Waste commercial supervisor. “Employees might use the space around an enclosed bin as extra storage, when in fact our drivers need that space to negotiate the forks on the big commercial trash trucks into grabbing the bin.”

Fernandez explains that if the driver cannot see what’s behind the bin, the wall of the enclosure could be damaged when lifting the bins. “We’re trying to protect business property, but also City property (the big truck) by being careful,” he said.

If the dumpster is overfilled, powerful winds can catch the trash and knock bags on the ground before they can land in the truck. If the bin has untied bags and loose trash, all the odds and ends can rain out around the cab of the truck and land on the ground. Heavy pieces can crack a windshield or knock the mirror right off.

Plus, it makes even more work for the business when they have to pick up what doesn’t make it into the back of the truck.

“If we’re trying to set down the bin and more trash falls that had been stacked around it, we’re not able to put it down correctly in the space and we have to contact the business owner to be able to come back and reset the bin,” Fernandez said.

With questions about commercial solid waste, call LCU Solid Waste, 575-528-3700.

It might be tempting to keep the area around the commercial dumpster piled high with things that you might not want to store in your business, but Bag it Up, Tie it Closed, and Keep it Clean to make sure that LCU is able to help your business properly manage solid waste disposal.

You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.

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Las Cruces

NMSU, partners vying for $100 million hub to address water challenges

Tiffany Acosta, NMSU Published 7:25 a.m. MT March 24, 2019 Pei Xu, center, New Mexico State University civil engineering associate professor, seen here in 2014, is leading NMSU’s effort as a member of the National Alliance for Water Innovation team in pursuit of a $100 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to create…

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Tiffany Acosta, NMSU
Published 7:25 a.m. MT March 24, 2019

As a leader in water treatment research, the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University is a part of a team preparing a proposal for a new U.S. Department of Energy grant to create an Energy-Water Desalination Hub. The award for the hub will be approximately $100 million, $20 million per year for five years, with a five-year renewal possibility. 

As a member of the National Alliance for Water Innovation team, Civil Engineering Associate Professor Pei Xu is leading NMSU’s effort in a consortium that includes Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory along with several universities and industry partners. 

“We aim to develop cost-effective and energy efficient availability of clean water reclaimed from a variety of traditional and non-traditional sources such as brackish water, seawater, wastewater and produced water for a range of applications including municipal drinking water, agricultural uses, manufacturing and other industrial needs,” Xu said 

“Results from this research and development would advance economic competitiveness, energy and water security and responsible environmental stewardship of the nation. NMSU’s participation in the hub would benefit the state of New Mexico, which faces water scarcity and severe droughts.” 

Proposals for the hub are due in May with an announcement slated for August. 

“We have a very unique expertise we can bring to the hub,” she said. “We are developing innovative technologies for selective removal of contaminants from water, and high-efficiency, renewable energy driven desalination processes.” 

In addition to research funding, Xu said the hub would bring in significant educational opportunities for students and postdocs to develop the next generation of workforce in water treatment. 

“Dr. Xu has earned widespread respect for her research in the water-energy nexus. One of her primary research areas is to develop sustainable water-energy-food-environment systems using low-cost, highly efficient and flexible treatment processes to reclaim produced water. She is an ideal person to be involved in this effort, and New Mexico is an ideal location for the Energy-Water Desalination Hub,” said Lakshmi N. Reddi, dean of the College of Engineering.

The hub opportunity is good timing, Xu said, because it would allow NMSU to continue water treatment research with the conclusion of a National Science Foundation grant, the Engineering Research Center for Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure, in 2021. NMSU partnered with Stanford University, Colorado School of Mines and the University of California, Berkeley in 2011 to create ReNUWIt with a goal of identifying new ways to supply urban water and treat wastewater with greater efficiency, resource recovery and environmental mitigation. 

After joining the NMSU faculty in 2013, the work of Xu and her research team has garnered more than $3.5 million in research support. Along with her work in municipal water reuse, brackish water desalination and concentrate treatment, Xu also examines produced water generated during oil and natural gas exploration. Xu and multiple NMSU leaders including Chancellor Dan Arvizu discussed a possible new industry collaboration with ExxonMobil representatives and Peter Fiske, the lead of the NAWI team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in a meeting on campus in January. 

“Support from industrial partners such as ExxonMobil is essential to the strength of this research. The future of water and energy is important to their business, and they will play an important role going forward with water-energy research,” Reddi said. 

Xu believes a collaboration with ExxonMobil would be a mutually beneficial partnership that would allow NMSU to test its research. 

“They make sure our technology isn’t just in an ivory tower, but it will be applicable to solve real-world problems,” she said. 

ExxonMobil has one of the most active oil and gas operations in the region, which includes the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico, with plans to triple total daily production by 2025. At the meeting at NMSU, representatives from ExxonMobil discussed its research portfolio including the lifecycle of produced water. 

Xu said she is optimistic about both the Hub and collaboration with ExxonMobil and credits NMSU civil engineering faculty members such as Assistant Professor Yanyan Zhang, Associate Professor Lambis Papelis and Professor Nirmala Khandan and Tanner Schaub from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences along with faculty members from chemical and materials engineering and mechanical and aerospace engineering for creating a strong research team. 

“Eye on Research” is provided by New Mexico State University. This week’s feature was written by Tiffany Acosta of Marketing and Communications. She can be reached attfrank@nmsu.edu.

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Sonoma Elementary fifth-graders get to live ‘A Day as an NMSU Student’

Matthew Legarreta, NMSU Published 4:23 a.m. MT March 24, 2019 The “Day as an NMSU Student” program offers students the chance to experience the day-to-day life of a college student at New Mexico State University. In 2019, the event will take place on April 5. (Photo: NMSU)Following the success of the program last year, the fifth-grade…

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Matthew Legarreta, NMSU
Published 4:23 a.m. MT March 24, 2019

Following the success of the program last year, the fifth-grade students of Sonoma Elementary School are once again being given the chance to experience day-to-day life as a New Mexico State University student on Friday, April 5. 

The “Day as an NMSU Student” event was launched in 2018 as a way to get young students to start thinking about advanced education at an earlier age. The initiative, a joint venture between NMSU and Sonoma Elementary School, was the brainchild of Monica Estrada, an NMSU alumna. Estrada was working at Sonoma Elementary as a substitute teacher when she realized just how many students at the school had never stepped foot on the NMSU campus.

“We have this amazing university at our back door that a high percentage of students had never been to,” said Estrada, who now works at Sonoma Elementary as a teacher’s assistant. “I decided I wanted to put a field trip together so the students could not just tour the campus, but get a true feel for what it is like to be student at NMSU. I wanted to recreate the excitement that I remember feeling when I was a student at NMSU.”

“Monica saw that a lot of these kids don’t realize they could go to college,” said Anne Hubbell, communication studies professor at NMSU and the event’s coordinator. “They don’t even think of that as their trajectory. So many of these kids, even in fifth grade, think they have no future for themselves in college. We want to change that line of thinking.”

This year’s event will operate similar to last year, with the students arriving on campus at 9:15 a.m. for a brief welcome and introduction inside Domenici Hall, Room 109. This will be followed by a presentation and series of video screenings by NMSU’s Creative Media Institute Department Head Amy Lanasa. Afterwards, the students will be divided into five groups and sent out to different programs around campus, from a tour of the dorms at Garcia Hall to interactive projects with the Department of Geology, the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, and the Young Women in Computing program.

“We want them to open their minds about their options,” said Hubbell, “and we want to show them there are more than two types of majors. Each of these kids comes in with this predisposed idea what college is. We try to change that idea and get them to think about it for themselves.”

The students also will have lunch on campus at Taos Restaurant, thanks to the generosity of NMSU President John Floros. President Floros will stop by during lunch for a quick visit with the students. 

The program has expanded, up 19 percent from last year. Though transporting 125 fifth graders posed a slight logistical challenge, Hubbell and the rest of the organizers were insistent that the entire grade should have the opportunity to come to the event.

“We’re not taking a select group of kids. We’re talking all of them,” said Hubbell. “We don’t want any student to feel left out. We want every student coming out of the day thinking ‘I can do this.’”

Matthew Legarreta writes for New Mexico State University Communications and can be reached at 575-646-7953, mattleg@nmsu.edu.

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