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Water Conservation Exemplar

by Doug Pushard

None of the questions I often get is how can I conserve water. It is a great question to get and it seems that it should be a very simple question to answer; unfortunately, it is not so straightforward.

Before answering this question I need to ask more questions. As the answer depends greatly on what they have already done, what they can afford, their current water use and lastly their willingness to adjust their lifestyle.

In our area on Northern New Mexico, fortunately many folks already are conserving water – whether it is rainbarrels in their garden or low-flow faucets in their house – so determining what they are doing today is the first step to answer the question. A few, like my friend Amy Bunting, are making it a way of life. Amy is really aware that saving water is not only a smart thing to do, but a necessity given we live in an arid part of the country.

Amy is very passionate about water. In fact her casita is lovingly called the SolarWhale after her two passions – Solar and Whales. Of course whales being the symbol of our blue planet.

Outside her house she is surrounded by rainbarrels, large and small. Not a canale is neglected. The size of the rainbarrel depends on the amount of runoff from this particular area of the house. This free captured water is used sparingly in her low-water use landscape, but mostly it is used to water her small, native garden and trees.

In her zest to save water outside she uses both a water timer and a water meter. The water timer, lets the water run for a specific length of time while the water meter sets to a specific number of gallons before it automatically shuts off. The latter allows her to water her trees with fifty gallons exactly once a month. More importantly both devices ensure she rarely if ever accidently leaves the water running or that she uses no more water than she wants to. These devices can pay for themselves by leaving the water running just once or twice.

Indoor Amy’s passion for saving water continues. Her 1995,home has all the bathrooms equipped with low-flow toilets and low-flow faucets. Her washing machine is also a high efficiency model. But her favorite water saving appliance is her solar clothes dryer (i.e. the good old fashioned clothes line as it uses no energy and thereby conserves water indirectly by needing no power). And not surprising Amy has no dishwasher. She washes by hand and instead of letting the “pre-hot” water go down the drain she captures it and uses it on her plants; thus saving outdoor water.

Amy is a great example of many of the things can be done to conserve precious water. Hers is an ongoing quest to save more and more and have less and less of an impact on our planet. Amy’s average water use is about 88 gallons a day, compared to the local average of 101 gallons. She is a prime example that saving water does not mean roughing it.

Conserving water does not have to be a costly one-time major expense or a major lifestyle change. Many, many of the changes Amy made have been made over the years. If you ever get a chance to visit Amy’s home you would be amazed as her charming abode looks and feels just like any other well-built local home, but it is a haven for saving energy and water.

How to conserve? The really simple answer is just start doing whatever we can. It all adds up and with our ongoing drought we need to be even more aware of the worth of our water.

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