Santa Feans know the importance of saving water

Santa Feans know the importance of saving water

Christine Y. Chavez for the Santa Fe New Mexican

One measure of conservation effectiveness used by the Water Conservation Office is gallons per capita per day (GPCD) which is an estimate of how much water is used per resident per day. This measurement is used internally to track program effectiveness over time, and it is required each year by the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (OSE) as a condition of approval for the City’s water right permit. Santa Fe has been a regional leader in GPCD for many years and has reduced GPCD on average by over 30% since 1995.

The GPCD for 2019 was 87 gallons per capita per day, down 8 gallons from 2019 and the lowest ever since the permit requirement has been in place. The contrast with the previous year’s GPCD of 95 is particularly interesting because 2018 was a very dry year with a lot of early-season irrigation, and 2019 was a very wet year that began with heavy snowfall and remained cool into early June. The late, wet spring resulted in a slow start to irrigation season and a reduction in total demand from 2.9 to 2.67 billion gallons. Demand remained low through May and June and peaked in July at a level below the July water demands in 2018.  Looking toward a future which predicts fewer long-lasting and snowy winters and targeting solutions to reduce demand is an emerging priority.

Like everyone else, the first half of 2020 has been unprecedented for our office and we are working to adapt. Ongoing in-person conservation programs have had to be temporarily stopped or modified and city budgets have impacted staffing levels and hours. We are continuing critical programs including tracking water usage efficiency, issuing rebates to water customers, and sending out continuous flow letters to warn customers of likely leaks but most everything else has had to change. We need your assistance to help us identify new opportunities, particularly with the challenges of COVID-19.

Last year we developed a new 5-Year Water Conservation Plan Addendum using public input. We promised that we would keep you informed and continue to ask for your valuable input. We use a scorecard to track progress against four identified goals, including education outreach & communication, customer service, partnerships & pilot projects, and effective program management. The Water Conservation Committee has scored our mid-year progress using the rating of none, some, significant, or complete. You can visit to review our mid-year progress. We are also asking everyone to click on the short video presentation to learn about the scorecard progress and then click on a series of four questions to provide feedback that will help us prioritize our focus for 2021.

Santa Feans should be commended. The low GPCD number reflects the conscientious and conservation-oriented approach our community takes so seriously. We look forward to working with all of you again and listening to your important feedback.