Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Drinking Water and Human Health in New Mexico

In the United States, infectious disease spread by untreated water is almost nonexistent, except during natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, or accidental contamination of wells or municipal water. Any of these incidents can devastate a community’s drinking water supply. In case of an emergency use the following guidelines:

Conditions in New Mexico

The New Mexico Environment Department Water Quality Control Commission and Drinking Water Bureau promulgate New Mexico’s water quality standards.

Every community water supplier must provide an annual report (sometimes called a consumer confidence report) to its customers. The report provides information on your local drinking water quality, including the water's source, the contaminants found in the water, and how consumers can get involved in protecting drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Information System provides on-line information on public drinking water systems and their violations of state drinking water regulations.

For an overview of drinking water issues, read Water on Tap: A Consumer's Guide to the Nation's Drinking Water. You may wish to consult EPA's drinking water glossary if you find unfamiliar terms in the following pages. For other assistance, please contact the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Most of New Mexico’s water supply is considered “hard”. Water may be described as “hard” or “soft” depending on its mineral content. Hard water contains more calcium and magnesium, while soft water has more sodium. There’s essentially no difference in flavor between hard and soft water. However, small amounts of iron give a metallic taste to water – but not enough to make it a significant source of dietary iron.

Because minerals in hard water interfere with the action of soap, some people prefer soft water. Hard water leaves “scum” in the tub and mineral buildup in appliances that use water; it won’t lather up; and over time, hard water may leave white laundry gray.

When water is softened, sodium is added as other minerals are removed. But for most people, the amount of sodium isn’t significant enough for concern. The amount added depends on the hardness of the water. The average softened municipal water may contain about 22 milligrams of sodium per cup.

If you have your own water softener, you might soften only the hot water. That way, if you’re sodium sensitive, you won’t have extra sodium in cold drinking water.

Resources and Programs

NMSU education and Cooperative Extension Service programs are available to the public to address drinking water quality concerns. These programs also may be designed to provide water quality information to specific audiences such as youth, farmers and other rural citizens, small businesses and other audiences.

Extension Outreach

New Mexico State University is home to New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service, which develops and delivers programs designed to provide educational outreach into all counties of the state. Outreach education enables the research developed at colleges and universities and from other sources throughout the world to be interpreted and delivered to the end user, which is often a home or business owner or agricultural producer.

New Mexico was one of the first western states to implement Farm*A*Syst: Farmstead Assessment System. The program is modeled after the national Farm*A*Syst materials and adapted to New Mexico conditions. An interactive web version of that assessment, along with the complete publications is available.

Treating and Storing Water for Emergency Use outlines several methods for storing emergency quantities of potable water for uses such as drinking, cooking, or brushing teeth.

New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program works with limited resource audiences in acquiring knowledge, skills, attitudes, and changed behavior necessary for sound diets, and to contribute to their personal development and the improvement of the total family diet and nutritional well-being. As a part of this program, paraprofessionals work with families to identify food/water safety issues that impact their families and solutions in dealing with these conditions.

College and University Education

Youth and continuing adult education are critical to develop new talent and human resources to address the water quality issues of the future. Educational curricula in drinking water and human health are available within several departments at New Mexico State University. Courses in key departments include:

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