From Toilet to Tap

Rio Rancho plans to pour effluent into the aquifer

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, February 23, 2012

Rio Rancho’s waste is being wasted. The same is true for most cities, which treat their sewage well enough to be used for gray water purposes but then send it downriver. Due to the plight of the desert and a rapidly growing population, Rio Rancho no longer wants to send off its sewage.

The city plans to inject it into the aquifer instead.

The project sounds scarier than it is, says Bruce Thomson, professor of civil engineering and director of the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico. “It’s extremely low-risk,” he says, adding that the project is environmentally friendly since it conserves resources. Still, people have an instinctually negative reaction to the idea of what’s called “toilet to tap,” and some worry about the safety of the plan.

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State Axes Cap-and-Trade

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, February 16, 2012

After more than a year of death-defying escapes, an environmental rule was repealed on Monday, Feb. 6, with a unanimous vote by a Gov. Susana Martinez-appointed board.

The rule up for debate was on capping and trading carbon dioxide emissions—putting a cap on how much can be produced and allowing companies that come in under the limit to trade what remains of their allowance.

The regulation was approved by the Environmental Improvement Board in 2010 during the final months of Democrat Gov. Bill Richardson's administration. But it was never implemented. Martinez fired all seven of those 2010 members and replaced them. The overhauled board axed cap-and-trade.

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Down by the Banks

Does our desert city have the right to drink from the Rio Grande?

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, December 15, 2011

When people in Albuquerque turn on their faucets, a little bit of the Rio Grande comes pouring out. That’s because on Dec. 5, 2008, the city stopped relying solely on a rapidly dwindling aquifer. Our water utility flipped a switch, and the San Juan-Chama Drinking Water Project came online.

The idea behind using river water was to lessen the strain on our underground supply. If it worked, the aquifer would begin to replenish itself, and the city would avoid catastrophe. Without a change, severe water-quality problems and region-wide subsidence (i.e., sinking land) were estimated to be about three decades away.

The good news is the project seems to be working. The bad news is the New Mexico Court of Appeals just ruled the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority doesn’t have the rights for the Rio Grande.

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The Empty City

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, September 22, 2011

Robert Brumley wants to build a ghost city in the middle of the desert. The CEO of Pegasus Global Holdings, a technology development company, has a surreal plan: Construct an entire city spanning 20 square miles over two years. Build enough homes to shelter 350,000 people. Erect a downtown, cobble together a warehouse district, save some green space, put in an “old town,” even run an interstate right through the middle of it. But don’t let anyone live there.

Humans are disruptive variables.

The uninhabited city will serve as a testing ground for new technologies. Brumley says the project, which is called The Center (short for The Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation) will be open to all sorts of emerging techs.

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A Token In the Ash

Read the rest of the Weekly Alibi's columns on 9/11 here

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, September 8, 2011

I learned of what happened that September morning the way most Americans did: by staring in disbelief at a television screen.

That’s my claim to 9/11. That’s it.

I spent the following days looking to the sky wondering what might come next. I wanted to hide under the covers, sequester myself in an invisible fortress. I wanted to run backward to the time when I still felt like nothing could hurt me.

There are so many others who were affected deeply, who suffered unknowable personal losses. But as a country, I believe the greatest loss we suffered on Sept. 11, 2001, was our sense of safety.

That’s something I know a few things about. I also know a bit about rebuilding that precious, intangible commodity. And on this, the 10-year anniversary of one of the most knee-buckling moments in our nation’s history, I’d like to talk about what I’ve learned.

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