City of Santa Fe seeks input on water conservation at forums

April 8, 2019

Though Santa Fe and its residents are doing a good job of reducing water use, more can be done, the city’s water conservation manager said.

Toward that end, the city’s Water Conservation Office is putting together a five-year conservation plan that will analyze residential and commercial use and make recommendations to decrease the amounts — in addition to creating a short-term strategy to address climate change and perhaps partner with the county to monitor domestic well use.

“I am hoping we end up with a meaningful plan that has public buy-in, that people are excited about implementing for the next five years,” said Water Conservation Manager Christine Chavez, following a Journey Santa Fe presentation at Collected Works Bookstore on Sunday.

To move the initiative forward, the city is hosting a series of public forums designed to generate input. That way, the city won’t have to worry about a process in which “people present the plan, other people don’t like it and it stays on the shelf,” Chavez said.

The second of those meetings, focused on commercial and industry water-use efficiency, is slated for 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Main Library on Washington Avenue. The first meeting, held last weekend, examined residential water use and what could be done to curb it.

Chavez said forum organizers received good feedback at that meeting. But while many attendees said they did not like the idea of the city imposing penalties or shutdown threats on residents who exceed legal water use, they also said they thought one good way to reduce water consumption was “fines … shame them, put their name in The New Mexican,” she said to laughter from the audience.

Chavez said the city could act “with more urgency on the situation.”

Based on 2017 data, she said the average Santa Fe resident used about 50 gallons of water per day. That amount will likely go up for 2018 because of the lack of snow and rain — the city should have that data within a couple of weeks. But the extra snow this past winter may reduce consumption for 2019, she said.

Residents can check their water use by signing up on the city’s Eye on Water website, www.eyeonwater.com. Despite hope that at least 50 percent of the city’s residents would log on, she said only 10 percent, or about 5,000-plus people, now do so.

Chavez acknowledged there are realistic “gloom and doom” scenarios about overuse of water on the national and local scale. But she said all is not lost.

“There’s hope,” she said. “There’s things we can do on the local level.”

The five-year plan, scheduled to be first reviewed and vetted by water experts from around the Southwest over the summer, can help with those endeavors, she said.

She said her department plans to present a final draft of the plan to City Council and other pertinent city committees by autumn, with an eye toward implementation Jan. 1.