Another attempt to improve water supply for the Cuba area has been presented to the Sandoval County Commission. At its August 19 meeting, the commission was asked to endorse a proposal by KNeW to produce potable water from deep aquifers in the Rio Puerco area using ion exchange technology developed by the company. According to its prospectus, the process would be used as feedstock to produce fertilizer while potable water would be a byproduct. The County Commission was not asked to fund the project. But  a decade ago, the commission spent more than  $7 million on an aborted de-salinization project in the Rio Puerco area. 

Back in 2010, Sandoval County government agreed to pay engineers to design a water desalinization plant to purify up to five million gallons of brackish water daily from a deep well in the Rio Puerco basin. County commissioners gave the go-ahead to advertise for bids to design the project despite persistent doubts over cost, disposal of salt and other impurities to be removed from the water and socio-economic implications of encouraging growth. Already $7 million in County funds had been spent to explore the feasibility of the water project intended to spur future industrial development. Building that desalinization plant was estimated to cost about $75 million, and another $28 million would be associated with disposing of the extracted salt and recovering and processing the lime.

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In 2010, the County issued a letter of support for a proposal by Native Energy Development to construct a $60 million power plant to serve the  desalinization project. At the County Commission’s January 21, 2010 meeting, its Division of County Development won approval to proceed with advertising for a contract to design the desalinization project, and support for the Native Energy Development proposal for the associated power plant.

The resolution before the commission this time refers to the earlier project, noting that “in 2011, Sandoval County conducted an extensive analysis of the Rio Puerco Deep Water Aquifer. Testing and analysis found that the aquifer contained at least 576,000 acre-feet  of recoverable water and may contain up to 2.6 million acre-feet of recoverable water.”

The 2021 resolution further notes that “the KNeW Company believes it can provide 528,344 gallons per day to the village in order to meet its existing consumption needs of about 420,000 gallons per day. The additional 108,344 gpd could be used for economic development purposes and potential job creation. An expanded facility has the potential to double the amount of available water for Cuba and the surrounding area including water for agriculture.”

The commission’s resolution suggests the technology “may have many applications throughout Sandoval County” and therefore it “fully supports the continued growth and development of this new company in our county.”

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