Water Matters: Restaurants can save lots

Water Matters: Restaurants can save lots

By Christine Y. Chavez For The New Mexican | Feb 2, 2020

We are thrilled to announce that Santa Fe has been named a Sustainable City of 2020 by Green Building Media, Inc. for leading by example and making strides in working toward solving environmental challenges. The annual award focuses on the City’s restaurant water-conservation leadership efforts, and really showcases the partnerships that have helped us be successful.

Did you know Santa Fe restaurants use more than 635 million gallons of water each year? A single leak can waste 3,400 gallons of water annually if left undetected. That’s a lot of water. The good news is the 31 participating restaurants in our pilot project collectively saved 450,000 gallons a year and identified over 1.5 million gallons of water that could be saved if recommended actions were taken.

Now we are taking this project to the next level. The City is currently recruiting 100 restaurants. Participants will receive a free commercial water audit valued between $500 and $1,000 to determine the current level of water-use efficiency and identify ways to cut down on water use, along with free onsite equipment such as aerators and pre-rinse spray valves. The restaurants will also be featured on www.savewatersantafe.com and our Facebook and Instagram pages, and some will be featured on this month’s radio show.

We are able to expand the program to reach more restaurants because of a new partnership with Santa Fe Community College. Funded by a National Science Foundation Grant, we have developed new workforce curriculum and trainings to increase the number of auditors not only for restaurants, but eventually for hotels and other commercial properties. This partnership shows that collaboration between public utilities, educators and private businesses can be a win for all three — a trifecta that can conserve natural resources, expand workforce opportunities, and help businesses succeed.

If we can reduce restaurant water use by 20 percent, we will save more than 120 million gallons of water in the first year alone. Not only that, we know restaurants have narrow profit margins and a 20 percent reduction in water can result in an additional 1 percent profit for the restaurant.

We can all help by asking for a glass of water only when we really need it and gently reminding restaurants not to serve water unless upon request and that they can contact the Water Conservation Office to get the required signage.

Spread the word to your favorite restaurant and have them contact the Green Chamber of Commerce at glennschiffbauer@gmail.com. Please visit our website for more information on the restaurant pilot program or our new 5-year water conservation plan. Also, please listen in every Thursday morning to the “Save Water Santa Fe” radio show at 8 a.m. on Que Suave Radio 99.9 FM / 810 AM.

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.