Piloting our way to water savings

Nearly two decades ago the City of Santa Fe embarked on an aggressive water conservation strategy that has recently been expanded by the city’s governing body to help businesses save an estimated tens of millions of gallons a year. These savings will be achieved through free water-efficiency assessments and adoption of recommendations for potentialequipment and behavior changes. To date, 73 restaurants, 5 hotels, 31 small businesses in two shopping centers and one museum have had water-efficiency assessments, and these program participants have been deemed “WaterWise”businesses by the city of Santa Fe.

All our pilot programs are geared toward innovative approaches to saving water. Some are launched citywide, others are implemented on a small scale in various Santa Fe neighborhoods. We use our annual scorecard with community input to vet new ideas through the city’s Water Conservation Committee. The results are then studied by small work groups, which include a joint city-county effort to ensure efficiencies. Most of these pilots also involve other city departments in order to jointly meet city goals through various partnerships.

Another ongoing pilot project is the TreeSmart SantaFe program, which has given away 150 trees from local nurseries. This program helps us maintain a healthy tree canopy that cools our city and saves water in three Santa Fe neighborhoods. It was launched in partnership with Keep Santa Fe Beautiful, with joint funding from a $25,000 grant from the New Mexico Tourism Department’s Clean and Beautiful grant program for environmental/beautification projects in Santa Fe. Educational components of the giveaway, as well as survivability of trees, are pieces of the pilot that are being monitored.

Another piloted approach to education and outreach to city and county residents is through the continued support of the Next Generation Water Summit. Over the past five years, this summit has provided city and county residents the opportunity to discuss water issues free of charge. Additionally, it serves as a training opportunity for city staff, given its relationship with regional and national audiences at the technical level. It also provides aligned educational events for our “next generation” of students who’ll be at the Next Generation Water Summit in 2023. This confab gives us multiple platforms to provide outreach, and it connects the city of Santa Fe to regional and national partnerships, thereby strengthening our water conservation efforts.

Our efforts are working. Since 1995, Santa Fe has reduced its water use by 33% despite a 25% increase in population served, and we continue to be a leader in the Southwest when it comes to how our community values water. These programs are successful only because of this community’scommitment and continued involvement in the city’s water conservation efforts.

If you are interested in serving on the city’s Water Conservation Committee, please contact Christine Chavez, cychavez@santafenm.gov.