City Encourages Ditch and Water Task Force to Recommend Improvements for Arroyo Safety

City leaders call for action following recent deaths in arroyos from flash floods.

August 16, 2021

Today, Mayor Tim Keller, City Council President Cynthia Borrego, City Councilor Lan Sena, and representatives from the Albuquerque Metropolitan Area Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA), Albuquerque Fire Rescue, and the City of Albuquerque’s Department of Municipal Development gathered to warn about the dangers of inhabiting and recreating in storm water channels and arroyos. They also outlined some next steps in improving the safety of these channels and canals throughout Bernalillo County.

“Some Albuquerqueans have taken up inhabitance and others choose to play in the arroyos.  These practices are very dangerous.  As a result, with the coming of summer monsoons, lives are lost.  It is imperative that responsible agencies and government work together to prevent the loss of lives through the review of all possible alternatives and implementation of safety measures in the arroyos” stated Council President Borrego.

Arroyo Safety Press Conference - August 16, 2021

Councilor Borrego has sponsored R-21-188, which will be heard for final action at tonight’s Albuquerque City Council Meeting. The legislation proposes asking the Ditch and Water Safety Task Force to establish a priority study that identifies ways and means to improve safety in stormwater channels and arroyos. Included in the study will be a map of channels and arroyos where people frequent, procedures or programs to guide those who inhabit storm water facilities, public safety outreach program, and a capital improvements list with estimated costs.

“Arroyos and ditches play a critical role in our infrastructure here in the high desert, but there is no doubt they are dangerous,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Coupled with our ongoing effort to offer better options for those who are unhoused, today, we’re working with City Council and partner agencies on keeping people out of these arroyos where seeking shelter can turn deadly.”

The Ditch and Water Safety Task Force includes representatives from the City of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, AMAFCA, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, and the New Mexico Department of Transportation. AMAFCA administers the Task Force and will work with the group to undertake a study to improve ditch safety.

“We have an urgent need to address the situation in our arroyos,” said Councilor Sena. “We’re looking forward to reviewing the Task Force recommendations and we’ll be working with all the agencies involved to identify funding for future capital improvements.”

The microclimate of Central New Mexico includes summer and fall monsoons that generate intense thunderstorm cells and create flash flooding within minutes with fast and turbulent sediment filled waters that exert energy forces that float heavy objects and rapidly overwhelm and drown human beings. Inhabiting these channels and arroyos is an extremely dangerous situation that has been verified the last several weeks with four people dying.

The legislation, R-21-188, is sponsored by City Council President Cynthia Borrego and is on the agenda for final action at tonight’s City Council Meeting. If approved, the legislation will allocate $30,000 for the study.