AZTEC — On Tuesday, city commissioners approved a nearly sure-fire solution to irrigation problems that threaten athletic fields at Tiger Park.

A new dedicated water line, larger in diameter, should solve the problem. The expected cost of the project will run more than $66,000.

Athletic fields and lawns at the relatively remote park at the end of Old Spanish Trail receive raw river water directly from the city's largest 58-million-gallon reservoir, Reservoir Number Three, better known as Tiger Park Lake.

Problems surfaced last year when the pump station that takes water from the lake to water the fields began shutting down because of low pressure, which was worse during peak water-use months. The pump failures required city crews to manually adjust the valves in order to get the pump to work again. To ensure the fields and lawns were irrigated, the city had to pipe in drinking water, which caused a spike in the city's own water bill.

The city spent more than $84,000 to irrigate all of its parks in 2013, according to Aztec Finance Director Kathy Lamb. Of that cost, almost $24,000 was spent watering Tiger Park, using more costly treated water to keep the grass green and trees healthy.

In September 2012, watering Tiger Park cost the city $7,200. The same month this year was down to $1,800, a significant savings related to constant tinkering and at the cost of manpower required to keep the pump working.

The potential savings from using river water in the reservoir is a unique feature of the park, which is set in the foothills to the south of Navajo Dam Road, approximately one mile south of U.S. Highway 550. But the water line system that takes river water directly to the pump has been plagued with problems that restrict water flow.

"Tiger Park is only park irrigated with raw water," Lamb said. "If this new line does what it is supposed to do, then we come down to almost zero costs to water Tiger Park."

But the solution to the water problem means an expense that nearly matches the city's average watering cost for all of its parks.

Water Treatment Plant Supervisor Andrew Galloway is hopeful the new line will solve the irrigation headaches that have plagued city crews for more than a year now.

"The new line will be 16 inches in diameter, larger than the current 12 inches, which can move a lot of water," Galloway said. "The line will require puncturing the lining of the reservoir, but hopefully this will be a sound design and remedy the pump problems."

Construction of the new water line will be completed before winter, Galloway said.

Galloway is dropping the water level at the reservoir steadily from a peak level of nearly 30 feet to 17 feet so the work can be performed. The new line will be installed below a low-water-level mark. And while the state Fish and Game Department regularly stocks the reservoir with trout and other fish for anglers, Galloway said the fish will not be left high and dry.

"It actually makes fishing for them easier, since they have less water to move around in," Galloway said. "Less-skilled fisherman like me actually may have a chance at catching one now."

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.