RUIDOSO, N.M. - The Village of Ruidoso is still suffering from last year's devastating Little Bear fire.
The fire, combined with three years of drought, has nearly dried out the village's water reservoirs.
Village officials are launching an aggressive water conservation campaign while they fix the problem.
Officials told ABC-7 Grindstone Reservoir is at 15 percent capacity, but you wouldn't think there was a water crisis by the sight of people fishing and enjoying the lake.
"It's been great. We just got here a moment ago and so far we caught one fish but hopefully we catch a whole cooler full," said an El Pasoan visiting with his family.
Ruidoso Utilities Director Randy Camp said the water level is dangerously low.
"The Little Bear fire deprived us of roughly nine months of monsoon water. That loss put us in a pretty critical state here. We're right now at 15 percent total capacity of this lake," Camp said.
The village's other reservoir is doing even worse.
During the fire last year, helicopters used Alto Lake water to fight the fire.
Today the lake is nearly dried up. Officials said there is about 18 inches of water left in there.
Ash and silt left from the fire polluted the runoff that supplied the reservoirs. Camp said Ruidoso will have to rely on ground water.
First, officials need to build pipelines to bring that water to the village. Until those projects are finished, Camp said it's crucial for residents and visitors to conserve water.
"If we can get the public to work with us on public conservation, we can start recovering the lake slowly. If they don't conserve water we might be able to just barely meet demand," he said.
Camp expects the pipelines to be finished by Memorial Day, just before the busy tourist season.
Under current restrictions, residents can't water their lawns unless they have private wells. Fruit trees and vegetables can only be watered by hand by placing water in the bib around the tree or plant.
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