A New Mexico city is less than one month away from running out of fresh water after a massive wildfire sparked by the federal government left residents’ usual sources loaded with ash and charred debris.
Las Vegas, New Mexico ― a city of around 13,000 that shares its name with the glitzy Nevada metropolis ― has only around 20 days’ worth of water left, CNN reported Saturday.
The crisis has been building since the region, which lies east of Santa Fe, saw the worst wildfire on state record rage this spring.
Around 340,000 acres were destroyed in April and May when two burns planned by the U.S. Forest Service ended up merging by accident, fueled by bone-dry conditions and brisk winds. The prescribed burns were meant to prevent the widespread outbreak of fire. Instead, they forced thousands of people out of their homes.
Then came the rains that made matters worse. While downpours would generally be considered a welcome sight, considering the drought currently plaguing much of the West, the rains ended up flushing ash and debris into the Gallinas River, making it undrinkable. The nearby Peterson Reservoir was also contaminated. Las Vegas has had turn to drinking from the Bradner Reservoir, which has limited resources, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, a local newspaper.
Officials hope a stopgap measure can buy them more time. Las Vegas Mayor Louie Trujillo told CNN “our fingers are crossed” that a local lake could provide clean drinking water for a few extra months.
Trujillo told the Associated Press last month that people who live in the area are used to droughts, but the current predicament is especially frustrating. He places blame squarely on the shoulders of the federal government.
“We’re going to continue to hold them responsible and expect them to pay for all of the improvements that we’re going to have to make,” Trujillo told the AP.