How Los Alamos Gets Its Water

By Elizabeth Watts

In Los Alamos county, we get our household water from an aquifer. But what is an aquifer? An aquifer is groundwater that is in the spaces in between rocks. If you have ever visited a beach, and dug a hole down to where it starts filling with water, you reached groundwater. 

Here in Los Alamos, we can’t just dig a small hole. The aquifer that supplies our water is 600 to 1,200 feet below the ground! You can see a diagram of our region below in this 2005 graphic from LANL.

Getting the water up here in the mountains from the aquifer takes a lot of energy. To do this, we need to use mechanical pumps. Watch this video to see a couple of examples of mechanical pumps from an engineer at the Department of Public Utilities.

Did that look hard? Do you want to try to pump all 10,000 gallons of water (per minute!) yourself? No! No matter how much food you eat for breakfast, you would not have enough energy to get even a little bit of water up from the aquifer.

The Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities uses electric and natural gas-powered pumps to pump up groundwater for the County’s residents. It can cost up to $750,000 a year just for the electricity to pump our water! So, when you save water, you’re also saving electricity. 

Scroll through these pictures below to see what one of the pumping stations looks like:

We hope that seeing where the water you use everyday comes from helps you to understand the importance of conserving water. We cannot pump an unlimited amount from the aquifer. The DPU has programs such as the W-8 rule during the summer to help limit our usage. Planting native plants in your gardens can also reduce the amount of water you use. 

Are there some simple ways you can think of to reduce your water usage? Send them to us at takeitoutside@peecnature.org and we may feature your ideas on our website.

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