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January 2014 Archives

A recent article in Choice Magazine reveals some interesting trends and attitudes on water usage in New Mexico.   Below are a few excerpts from this excellent paper published by Brian Hurd.  As is shown in this analysis, it is very possible for these communities in New Mexico to greatly decrease water usage, simply by targeting inefficient outdoor irrigation practices.  No change in behavior required, just fix what is broken to save water and save money. These levels of water savings are probably not unique to New Mexico, but probably apply to all areas where the irrigation season is the peak water demand season.

Communities throughout the arid western United States and in growing numbers in the relatively more water-abundant east are challenged by increasingly scarce water supplies, growing populations, and needed economic development. Communities desire secure, reliable water supplies, as well as a varied array of attractive public amenities including parks, open spaces, swimming and recreation facilities, public golf courses, and other water-intensive services. Water managers must balance these desires with the growing costs of system maintenance and expansion, all the while generating sufficient revenues to service these costs.


Economic incentives--such as increasing block rate structures where per unit water prices are higher for higher volumes consumed and rebates for water-saving appliances, fixtures, and landscapes--alone do not appear to explain the relative success that communities have achieved in reducing per capita water use.

Resistance to higher water rates and limited program resources for financial incentives means greater reliance on noneconomic approaches and public appeals for wise-use and 'correct' behavior.

Irrigating the urban residential landscape usually accounts for 40-70% of household water use. Additionally, residential landscapes receive 30 to 40% more water than typically required by the common types of plants and grass. Estimates of potential water savings range from 35% to 75% of current per capita water use based on a typical home with a traditional bluegrass type landscape (Sovocool, 2005). Improvements in the efficiency of landscape irrigation could yield significant water savings and is properly the focus of municipal water conservation programs.

Read the full article: Water-Conserving Attitudes and Landscape Choices in New Mexico

Editorial: Why not harvest rainwater?

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Rainwater harvesting is not just happening in the US, it is a worldwide event.  Folks are noticing the changing weather patterns which in some cases mean more severe rain storms and view it as an opportunity to adopt more sustainable methods.

Below is a recent article from El Salvador where the city of Davao City has a rainwater harvesting ordinance, the writer is pushing for even greater adoption of the practice.


In Asia rainwater harvesting had been common for decades but forgotten. It is now being rediscovered.  For example, in Korea it is being promoted as a solution to ongoing water shortages in remote areas.


In China, it is a growing solution to a pressing water problem.


And in Europe, a court ruled that laundry can be washed with rainwater thus providing even a greater market for rainwater catchment systems. 


In the US, where it seems we lag and then leap ahead of other markets, rainwater harvesting is slowly moving forward with little to no federal support and in most cases no state level support.  Just imagine what would happen to this market with just a little support from our elected politicians.

Today's article in the New York Times highlights the critical importance rivers play in our national water system.  This article is specifically about the Western United States, but rivers across the country are diminishing and increasingly adding risk to our water supply future.


The Rio Grande river is now a fraction of it former self and without the diversion from the Colorado River through the San Juan / Chama diversion the river would not even reach Albuquerque.  The drought in this area has reduced upstream Rio Grande reservoirs to historic low levels.
The Rio Grande River near Isleta Pueblo south ...

The Rio Grande River near Isleta Pueblo south of Albuquerque (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Klamath in Oregon to the Chattahoochee in the South, rivers are becoming more and more over-allocated and thus fueling conflict in neighbors with competing rights.


River water is just one of our sources of water, with ground water being another.  Rivers and the impact of over drawing and diminishing supplies are quite visible.   Not so visible are our ground water supplies, and yet these supplies are also diminishing below our very feet.


Water is key to our quality of life and our very survival. It needs to be a very high priority.  Driving blind and being wasteful is not a good long-term survival strategy. 

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