Several weeks ago, the Observer ran a Letter to the Editor that wondered about the safety of drinking water in the City of Vision.

The letter, written by Harry Gordon, detailed how Gordon had tested his own water in his Enchanted Hills home using a meter and was “getting readings at 600 (parts per million) total deposited solids and higher.”

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends treatment when TDS concentrations exceed 500 parts per million

The correct term is  actually “total dissolved solids.” According to the EPA, “TDS refers to the total amount of all inorganic and organic substances – including minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions – that are dispersed within a volume of water. By definition, the solids must be small enough to be filtered through a sieve measuring 2 micrometers. TDS concentrations are used to evaluate the quality of freshwater systems. TDS concentrations are equal to the sum of positively charged ions (cations) and negatively charged ions (anions) in the water.”

While the EPA recommends treatment for readings over 500 ppm, it is not required. TDS is not considered a primary pollutant, and high TDS levels usually indicate hard
water and may lead to scale buildup in pipes and reduced efficiency of water filters and hot water heaters.

“The testing the letter writer wants done is not required per federal regulations,” Deputy City Manager Peter Wells wrote in an email. “Under federal regulations, TDS is considered a secondary drinking water standard, which means there is not a health hazard concern.”

District 3 City Councilor Bob Tyler spoke of Gordon’s letter at a City Council meeting on Feb. 9.

Bob Tyler

“I want to make a comment because I know that there’s been some write-ups in our local paper recently, in reference to the water and the water quality, more specifically in Enchanted Hills,” Tyler said. “Some of the comments, it just kind of concerns me because I think it brings an unnecessary light to something that truly we don’t have an issue with at this point in time. I don’t see a problem with it. I know that there’s been some concerns. So I want to address that now and I want to say that I have all confidence in city staff and the utilities department that they’re doing the appropriate job for the citizens of Rio Rancho, and they’re doing the proper testing. I know that the city of Rio Rancho does all required testing necessary by EPA standards and state regulations. And there’s a report of that on the website each year detailing all of our testing and I just want to caution, folks, before we start running to the newspaper and doing and releasing this type of material, we do our research and we take a really good look at it because I don’t want people to cause panic or stress to other folks within the community. So, again, I just want to make sure that everyone knows that the water, the water quality is just fine. And the city does an amazing job. And we work well within the EPA standards.”

Each year, the city of Rio Rancho releases its annual water quality report to inform the public. The 2022 report should be available in May or June this year. The 2021 report shows some contaminants were detected, such as arsenic, lead and copper, but none were over the maximum contaminant level set by federal regulations.

The city of Rio Rancho has water reports from 2009-2021 posted online and not a single violation has occurred in that time frame. The EPA has set standards for more than 80 contaminants that may occur in drinking water and pose a risk to human health.

An Environmental Working Group report, using testing information from the New Mexico Environment Department and information from the U.S. EPA Enforcement and Compliance History database, detected 28 contaminants in Rio Rancho drinking water from an assessment from January to March 2021. Twelve of those contaminants exceeded EWG health guidelines, but none were over the legal limit.