Albuquerque Report

211 Ribs on the channel slow the water down as it moves through the “washing machine” section of Albuquerque’s stormwater highway. AP-2D photo

CLUI Albuquerque

THE STORM WATER DRAINAGE SYSTEM of Albuquerque was the subject of a display in the Center’s New Mexico Exhibit Unit. Urban Pavement: Navigating Storm Water through Albuquerque featured image and text panels put together by students from Albuquerque Academy, led by their teacher Louis Schalk.

The Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA) was established in 1963 to coordinate the surface runoff from rains that would often damage the growing, and increasingly paved, city. Today the agency operates as the backbone of a multi-agency group, controlling 69 miles of channels, 9 miles of underground facilities, and 7 miles of dikes and diversion structures, as well as storm drains, drainage ponds, dams, and pump stations. This vast network concentrates the dramatic flow of seasonal storms into a watery highway system that removes water from the city as quickly and nondestructively as possible.

The exhibit provides an overview of the system with maps and images, and goes into details such as the last chance ladders located strategically to provide egress for people that might get washed into the system, before facing the baffle chuteslarge, staggered concrete teeth designed to catch debris and slow water in the main channels.

Also discussed are recreational uses of the system, such as frisbee golf, hang gliding, dog parks, and other ephemeral activities allowed to occur in sacrificial flood basins, and the usually unsanctioned skateboarding that goes on inside the large spans of empty concrete channels. The exhibit also examined the pollution issues that result from concentrating the runoff of the city, especially bad during the first flush of the rainy season in the spring, where waste accumulated over the dry months of the fall and winter are swept up into a trash slurry and delivered to the Rio Grande.

This was the second excellent exhibit produced by Schalk’s AP-2D Design class for the CLUI display space in New Mexico. The exhibit was shown from October 23, 2010 to January 28, 2011, at the CLUI New Mexico Exhibit Unit, located at the end of Los Picaros Road, in the valley of the Tijeras Arroyo, between the Airport and Mesa Del Sol. The exhibit was visitable 24/7 via the Center’s site access telephone network.