Water Quality FAQs

BDD Las Conchas Fire Stormwater Protection

BDD Tap Water is Safe to Drink

Background: The BDD Board shares the public’s concern regarding raw river water which, during storm events, has shown to have elevated levels of contaminants including heavy metals and radionuclides due to the impact of the Las Conchas Fire. The BDD Board has taken several steps to protect Santa Fe’s drinking water and ensure it is safe to drink.  Vigorous test sampling and monitoring of both pre and post treatment water are on-going and rapid sampling processing by independent laboratories has been requested.  We have also tested and reviewed operating protocols used to protect Santa Fe’s drinking water from LANL-origin contaminants during the storm events post Las Conchas Fire.  Results of water quality samples taken of treated drinking water show they are better than Safe Drinking Water Standards. The BDD is operated to ensure that the diversion structure is closed to stormwater run-off even though the treatment plant has the capacity to clean stormwater to meet safe drinking water standards.  

BDD Board Protection Measures

  • Early Notification System of water coming down the Los Alamos canyon
  • Shut-down of the river diversion so contaminated raw river water does not get into the system
  • Advanced water treatment process to remove 99.99 % of contaminants
  • Rigorous stormwater and water quality monitoring and testing program
  • Expedited sample testing
  • Test reporting transparency

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there LANL-contaminants in my drinking water that may have washed down fire damaged canyons to the Rio Grande during storm events?

No. While sediments and the LANL contaminants that adhere to them have been carried into the Rio Grande from fire damaged canyons, the BDD has two protection barriers. First, the BDD has advanced notification of stormwater flows and stops diverting river water before the stormwater reaches the BDD intake structure on the Rio Grande. Second, the treatment plant has a water treatment process that can remove 99.99% of contaminants. Even if stormwater somehow reached the diversion, the treatment plant will reliably remove the contaminants. Vigilant monitoring of contaminants in the Rio Grande, including radionuclides, timely and transparent monitoring results have been, and will continue to be, the central focus of the BDD operations.

What is the early notification system and why should we have faith in it?

The early notification system consists of two storm gaging stations that measure arroyo runoff at the following locations:

  • Station E050.1 in Los Alamos Canyon above the Pueblo Canyon confluence
  • Station E060.1 in Pueblo Canyon above the Los Alamos Canyon confluence

The technology in place is proven and reliable. Information from these gages is sent by secure radio link to the BDD control room. Automated controls shut down the BDD pumps that take water from the river before flow out of Los Alamos Canyon reaches the location of the BDD intake structure. Pumping from the river will not resume until the storm event has flowed downstream of the BDD diversion location. The gages have been continuously monitored and are functioning properly.

Why did the BDD shut down on July 15th?

The BDD was shut down on July 15th in response to ash-laden river conditions resulting from the Las Conchas Fire and mud and ash flowing into the Rio Grande from Santa Clara Canyon upstream of the BDD diversion intake. Since that time, extensive laboratory testing has been conducted on both finished drinking water and raw, untreated river water. The independent analysis for radiochemical sample results of the finished drinking water has met all required drinking water standards.

The BDD will continue to take a conservative approach to re-starting the diversion whenever the BDD is shut-down as part of normal utility operating protocols.

How are stormwater samples taken and how are they analyzed?

Interagency monitoring efforts between NMED, BDD and LANL have been developed to maximize stormwater monitoring coverage and minimize duplicate efforts.

All agencies follow established EPA protocols for sample collection. Samples are collected by experienced scientists and are analyzed by independent and certified laboratories. The analytical data is carefully reviewed and validated.

What is being tested?

Current drinking water quality standards require testing for 95 contaminants, including microbial, disinfection by-products, inorganics, organics and radiochemical contaminants. BDD Project drinking water will be better than required by all applicable safe drinking water standards.

How does the BDD monitor water quality?

The BDD Project frequently and aggressively monitors and tests both its untreated and treated water to make sure it meets or is better than all state and federal drinking water standards. In addition, the BDD has voluntarily committed to testing the water more frequently than is required by either the New Mexico Environment Department or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The BDD will post test results as they become available.

Where can I find monitoring and testing results?

Summaries of the BDD monitoring can be found on the BDD website and by following the instructions below:

Drinking Water:

To obtain detailed analytical information of drinking water compliance testing sampling results collected by the New Mexico Environment Department, please visit www.eidea.nmenv.state.nm.us and follow the instructions below:
  1. type in “Buckman” in the principle water system name section
  2. choose in “Santa Fe” from the Principal County dropdown
  3. choose in “Community” from the Water System Type dropdown
  4. type in “Surface Water” from the Primary Source Water Type dropdown
  5. select a desired value from the list provided in the sample class section
  6. select a date range in the collection date range section (The Sample Search always produces results from the last 2 years, unless you provide a specific date range.)
  7. click “search for sample”

Additional Drinking Water Testing Results Collected by BDD

2011 Drinking Water Sampling Report

2012 Drinking Water Sampling Report

Stormwater

To obtain detailed analytical information of storm water testing and sampling results, please visit Intellus New Mexico www.intellusnm.com and follow the directions below:
  1. go to intellusnm.com
  2. click on red “Environmental Database” field
  3. on top of page in the grey bar click on “Reporting”
  4. click on “Analytical Reports”
  5. click on “Field Sample Results”
  6. select “By Location Group” and click on “Submit”
  7. under “Primary Filter” double click on “Buckman Diversion” and choose sample date range
  8. under “Parameters Filter” double click on the parameter you would like to get information on
  9. under “Data Fields / Output” double click in the left box on the data fields you would like to see in your report
  10. then click “submit” and your report will be generated
  11. By clicking on the pull down menu under “Location” you can order the report results by location
  12. By clicking on the pull down menu under “Parameter Name” you can order the report results by parameter

Additional BDD Stormwater Testing Reports:

BDD 2011 Stormwater Sampling Report

Why does it take so long to get lab data results?

There are several reasons stormwater samples take time to process. The samples are processed the day after a storm event. Some samples require sample preparation before they can be shipped to the independent laboratories. The samples are sent to out-of-state certified laboratories and the BDD has requested expedited turn-around-times for all stormwater samples. To obtain the most reliable results and low detection limits for radionuclide testing, it is recommended to perform the standard testing procedure, which is time consuming and takes 30 working days. The BDD will post results on the BDD website as promptly as possible.

If you don’t have the results until after a storm event, how do we know contaminated water didn’t already get diverted and the water is safe to drink?

The BDD does not and will not divert Rio Grande water whenever precipitation impacts water quality in the river, regardless of whether or not Los Alamos canyon is discharging stormwater to the Rio Grande.

Does the BDD stop diverting water only when there are storm events in Los Alamos Canyon?

No.  The BDD does not and will not divert Rio Grande water whenever precipitation impacts water quality in the river, regardless of whether or not Los Alamos canyon is discharging stormwater to the Rio Grande.

Stopping river diversion is not always due to raw river water quality.  While the BDD has the technology to treat the water, it does not always make good operational or economic sense to divert all river water and treat it.

The BDD has real-time measurement of turbidity (cloudiness) and sediment of the diverted water.  The diversion shuts down anytime sediment levels get high, regardless of whether or not Los Alamos Canyon is discharging stormwater to the Rio Grande.

All of these considerations protect against the intake of contaminants, almost all of which are absorbed to sediments particles.  These standard operating procedures for unusual river conditions are necessary to protect the project’s infrastructure from sediment deposits in the pipelines and pump stations as well as avoid the high costs associated with treating water with high sediment concentrations.

The BDD may cease diversions whenever unusual river conditions exist.  This operational flexibility allows BDD staff to analyze river samples and determine optimal treatment techniques to ensure the safety and quality of the drinking water.  Unusual river conditions causing the BDD to stop river diversion include:

Water quality monitoring for raw river water and for finished drinking water is on-going and continuous.

How can I find out if the BDD is shut down?

The BDD has hourly posting of diversion intake and return flows on the website and information for specific dates are available with one-click.  Monthly information and daily flow meter readings are also available on the Rio Grande Daily Diversions page..

Who regulates our drinking water?

In New Mexico, drinking water quality is administered and enforced by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Drinking Water Bureau.

Why is the river diversion site located below LANL and not somewhere else?

Many alternatives  were considered, but the BDD’s diversion location is the best choice as an additional source of drinking water for the Santa Fe region in the near-term for three  reasons: 1) the Rio Grande provides an important source of sustainable surface water to ensure an adequate water supply for our citizens; 2) the City and County already have rights to significant quantities of imported San Juan-Chama Project water that is available for diversion only from the Rio Grande; and 3) diversion from the Rio Grande at alternate locations as evaluated in the BDD Project Environmental Impact Statement would be more difficult or impossible.