Conservation options for businesses

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Originally published in the Santa Fe New Mexican on August 6, 2017

The City of Santa Fe’s Water Conservation Program objective is to work with all our city customers to find ways to save water, especially during the summer months. For our residential customers, we offer tips and ideas on our website and social media. We also have a rebate program that incentivizes indoor fixtures as well as rain barrels and cisterns. We have many of our customers signed up for our Eye on Water app that allows them to be notified of any leaks or issues that might be occurring in their homes. We also partner with many local business owners in town to distribute our information and to partner with on our education efforts.

We spend lots of time working with our youth. In the fall, we are pushing out a new education program for 4th-graders that allows the kids to learn about where our water comes from; how it’s treated, which will include a tour to the Buckman Direct Diversion; and then how our wastewater is treated and re-used with a trip to the Waste Water Treatment Plant. This program also integrates presentations from Sustainable Santa Fe, Keep Santa Fe Beautiful, and our Water Conservation Program. The best part is that all the city partners above are collaborating on the project together.

What we recognize now is that we need to do more for our commercial customers. Many of them are not aware that we offer a commercial rebate in the amount of $25,000 as a credit to their water bill when they can demonstrate a retrofit that will save the business an acre-foot of water a year. It’s a design-your-own rebate of sorts and can be applicable to hotels, restaurants, assisted-living homes, car washes, and many other types of businesses. Though we have done much to promote the rebate, we have had very few businesses apply.

The Santa Fe Water Conservation Committee has recently identified subcommittee work focusing on our commercial sector. We are now looking at ways to improve the rebate so that more of our commercial customers apply. With that comes more education opportunities that might include free water audits to identify both indoor and outdoor conservation opportunities that might help them qualify. Eye on Water is also a tool that would be of tremendous value to our commercial customers. Properties with multiple meters can now track all of them in one place with the app. This could give a business the opportunity to spot any kind of leak on the property as well as make estimates on water usage during high peak hours. As subcommittee work develops, several other changes may be made that might further incentivize our commercial sector. For now, though, our goal is to keep searching for ways to make saving water a goal for all our customers and to offer the best resources to help them do it.

For more information on the City’s Water Conservation Rebate Program please visit www.savewatersantafe.com/rebates

Christine Y. Chavez has a background in water rights administration and energy and water conservation program management in the state of New Mexico. She is a graduate of New Mexico State University with a B.S. in environmental science and an M.S. in biology. Christine is the water conservation manager for the City of Santa Fe. She may be reached at 505.955.4219 or cychavez@santafenm.gov