Drinking Water | 3 MIN READ

Big Changes for a Small Water System

June 24, 2024 By Karl Pennock, Rural Development Specialist, Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC)

“Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association– those are big words!” laughs Tracie Johnson of the newly-formed Southern New Mexico Water Association.

Serving approximately 120 rural households, the Enchanted Forest community water system was nestled in a rugged section of Lincoln County in Southern New Mexico that had been experiencing numerous wildfires and drought over much of the past decade.

By late May 2022, the community had run out of water.

Fortunately,  Johnson had reached out to Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) just the month before, seeking advice on how to ensure a clean and reliable source of drinking water for residents of the Enchanted Forest community system. As Johnson often stated, “We need the water!”

RCAC Rural Development Specialists (RDSs) and Johnson worked quickly to obtain emergency assistance from the New Mexico Board of Finance and led efforts to reorganize the community’s imperiled water system into a Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association (MDWCA) to access public financing options. The MDWCAs were originally authorized under New Mexico’s Sanitary Projects Act of 1949 to address the waterborne illness that was prevalent throughout many parts of the state at the time. They allow small communities like Enchanted Forest to legally build and develop  safe drinking water systems with public funding assistance. RCAC then helped develop organizational documents that would be needed for the transition, such as the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. By June 2022, the community system had been officially reorganized as an MDWCA.

RCAC next continued to help the community address its water security needs by assisting the newly-formed Enchanted Forest MDWCA with implementing system improvements. RCAC helped the board procure engineering services and navigate the often-complex loan and grant funding application process, identifying the best approach for leveraging the community’s limited financial resources. Most recently, RCAC devoted additional resources to conduct a household income survey that will determine the community’s eligibility to access additional public funding opportunities.

According to RCAC’s regional field manager, Ramon Lucero, who has played a vital role in helping Enchanted Forest, “Rarely have I seen an association so engaged and motivated. It has been a great privilege working with Enchanted Forest.” Referring to Lucero and the RCAC Rural Development Specialists Karl Pennock and Indira “Indie” Aguirre who have also worked on this effort, Johnson writes, “Again and again and again, you, Karl, and now Indie have just been invaluable, and I hope for a long, long-time friendship out of this entire adventure.”

Congratulations to Enchanted Forest Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association on a job well done!


This article was funded under RCAP’s EPA NPA 1 2022 – 2024 grant. 

By Karl Pennock, Rural Development Specialist, Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC)

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