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water saving tips and ideas....

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Rainwater Harvesting

If you live in New Mexico, you understand the importance of WATER. Several years ago, my brother visited from Dallas and graciously helped prepare dinner. While washing the vegetables, he let the water run and run. We were dismayed but realized that not all areas of the country are as water frugal as we are. This year, even Texas has experienced the unsettling impact of drought and its important consequence for crops and our food supply.

"If Americans think water shortage is a problem that only affects less developed nations, they are in for a shock. The Colorado River -- once a mighty force through the Southwest -- no longer reaches the ocean. During the summer months, the Rio Grande disappears from its bed for nearly 200 miles, coming alive again only when it meets the Rio Conches." Src: SFChronicle

Fortunately, Albuquerque has a strong WATER CONSERVATION PROGRAM that not only provides rebates for water conserving solutions but also a free audit program to help identify water waste. There are tips and ideas for saving water. No need to recreate this wonderful resource, just go and explore the site. For fun, play the water busters game. (We didn't do so well, maybe you can do better. Hint: use the tools.

A couple of tips we did not see on the city site:

If you don't have recirculating hot water, catch the water in a large water can/pitcher that is too cool for pot washing until it warms up. Use the water for house plants. We stack our dirty pots inside each other from large to small and fill only the top one with sudsy water which can then be poured into the next one in sequence. Using the sink stopper, allows us to wash the sink after all the pots/pans are done. The whole job uses only one pot full of water. As Lisa Ayres of Arid Solutions suggests, you can also "catch" water while washing veggies.

water dropThe idea of catching shower water as it warms up is admirable, but a little more difficult to keep up with. Dr. Alan Zelicoff, local energy expert suggested that we should turn our water heater down as low as we could and then gradually move the dial up until we have a comfortable shower temperature. Now the shower handle can be turned on to full "hot" (without mixing in unneeded cold water) and be just the right warmth. No more fiddling with the handles (up and down) trying to get it right (saving gallons AND time in the shower). Dr. Al also pointed out that dishwashers DO NOT need super heated water to safely wash our dishes. BONUS: Saves energy!

The following is a simple bathroom tip to reduce your utility bills. Take showers instead of baths, but limit the length of the showers to five minutes. A typical bathtub requires about 30 gallons for a bath. A standard shower head will flow about 3 gallons per minute. In five minutes, this uses only 15 gallons of water. Put a small kitchen timer in the shower for the kids.

Install a low-flow shower head with a shower shut-off valve. Many common low-flow shower heads have them. While you are washing your hair or shaving your legs, the sudsing shut-off valve slows the water flow to a trickle. This trickle maintains the water temperature and eliminates that shocking shot of very hot or cold water when you slide it open again to rinse. Using a low-flow shower head with one of these valves can cut the total water usage to under ten gallons saving thousands of gallons of water per year.Arid Solutions Rain Barrel

 

Water Barrels....

Going a step further, we purchased our first rain (harvesting) barrel a couple of years ago from Arid Solutions. Rain harvesting simply means using the the rain that accumulates on your roof for landscaping or other uses. We got excited about the possibility of harvesting gray water from our washing machine but have not given it a try yet. Desert Plastics also has rain barrels in 15 colors. Osuna Nursery has some "faux rock" water barrels (200 gal.) that could be blended in with plants to totally disquise their use. I also found some 200 gallon barrels at Dan's Boots and Saddles. Rob Roman at Roman's Rain Reserves (453-7423) often brings his rain barrels to the Los Ranchos Growers market and will answer any questions you may have. All are local companies and should be supported.

Just Sprinklers, another local company, is installing a state of the art 3000 gallon rain catchment system in their parking lot overlayed with permeable pavers so they can continue to use the parking lot. They are installing a system provided by Aquascapes, Inc  Check it out....looks very interesting. You can harvest water for landscaping/gardening AND have an exciting water feature in your yard. If you have plenty of time on your hands, you can also make your own rain barrel harvester.

A builder in the East Mountains is using a cistern and gray water harvesting for his high end homes, providing water for landscaping needs. See Engelman Construction, a GREEN builder. Gray water does contain pathogens and, as such, the state has put out A Guide to Using Graywater. (See Page 21 for 2003 law).

Most importantly, the city has been working hard to secure our water future. In 1963, City and State leaders worked to get water from the Colorado River (a portion of New Mexico's share of the Colorado River) via the San Juan-Chama project. The San Juan-Chama water imports water from the San Juan River in southern Colorado into the Rio Grande basin in the Chama River. The San Juan-Chama project was constructed to provide Albuquerque with a future water supply under contract for 48,200 acre-feet per year, and Albuquerque has invested almost $50 million.

Other Resources

New Mexico Water Conservation Alliance ...

A non-profit organization of people dedicated to water conservation issues. Individuals from municipal, industrial, institutional, and commercial sectors have joined together in an effort to exchange information, provide education, and work collaboratively to help ensure a positive water future for the state.

Xeriscape Council of New Mexico...

The Xeriscape Council is education and project oriented. The group's main interest is to educate New Mexicans and others about water conservation and to promote the idea of using native, low-water plants and landscaping/irrigation methods in New Mexico as a means of water conservation.

Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District ...

The Rio Grande has been the source of life-giving water for civilizations in New Mexico for as long as people have lived here. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District maintains the intricate systems of ditches and canals and levees that prevent the Rio Grande from overflowing its banks while also allowing for irrigation, agriculture, recreation, and environmental sustainability.


Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District ...

Ciudad's mission is to promote the conservation, protection, improvement, and responsible development of the natural resources within our district. In recent years, Ciudad SWCD conducted workshops on composting and water harvesting, installed drainage control and landscaping at an elementary school, obtained irrigation supplies for a middle-school garden, and sponsored several tree planting projects. 

Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority...

"The future of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County depends greatly upon the availability of water for the generations to come. Water conservation is one of the surest, cheapest ways that we can insure that future. The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority adopted a Long Range Water Conservation Strategy in 2004 establishing a new water conservation goal of 40%. The Authority’s customers reduced their water use by 30% from 1995 to 2004. "

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