Taos County,New Mexico

Many small water systems in Taos County are out of compliance and/or need infrastructure upgrades but struggle to pay for the necessary infrastructure improvements

RCAC facilitated discussions between the Taos County small water systems to form a regional management entity

Regional collaboration among rural communities is an innovative way to help small water and/or wastewater systems maintain compliance, improve aging infrastructure and become financially sustainable. We call this regionalization, and it comes in many forms including consolidating multiple systems into one; creating umbrella management organizations (as is the case in Taos), Joint Powers Authorities or memorandums of understanding.

RCAC has facilitated many regionalization projects throughout New Mexico including the Taos County Water Systems’ Management Collaborative Entity. When the Taos County collaborative is complete the systems will be financially stable and able to make the needed upgrades to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The collaborative will include nine or more small water systems. Each system will maintain independent ownership but a management entity will provide administrative and managerial capacity to all involved systems to cut costs and eliminate redundancy. The first phases of the regionalization project have been completed successfully.

Regional collaboration is a long and arduous process that requires expert facilitation and mediation. Successful collaboration includes an engineering feasibility study, community outreach and developing a new level of governance and financial planning. Sometimes it includes actual infrastructure consolidation but also shared managerial, operator and/or treatment costs. Regionalization provides small systems with the finances needed for day-to-day operations and necessary upgrades. It also often attracts more state and federal infrastructure funding. Regional collaboration is not a one-size-fits-all approach—each community is unique and the best option for that particular community/region needs to be explored and requires community buy-in to be viable.