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Editorial: ABQ Ahead of Game In Water Conservation

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Albuquerque gets it.

Water conservation, that is.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and its metro area customers have cut per capita water use 40 percent since 1994 — and hit a state conservation goal 13 years early.

The reduction in usage is particularly impressive given recent dry years.

In 1994, Albuquerque launched a major water conservation effort after experts determined the city was depleting its groundwater reservoir faster than expected. Daily usage at the time was 252 gallons per person.

Conservation measures have included rebates for replacing an existing toilet with a low-flush model and for removing a lawn and mandatory landscape watering times. There is a small reward built in for low water users and a bit of a penalty for water hogs. Awareness campaigns promoted conservation.

Appliance standards for new construction were changed to push conservation.

In 2004, as part of Albuquerque’s permit to begin using imported San Juan River Basin water as part of the city’s drinking water supply, the state set a legally binding benchmark of 155 gallons per person per day with a 2024 deadline. But new calculations show that in 2011, the city’s daily water usage surpassed that benchmark, dropping below 150 gallons per person.

In 1994, before water conservation efforts began, Albuquerque used 40.6 billion gallons. In 2011, usage had dropped to 34.6 billion gallons. Meanwhile population in the utility’s service area grew from 441,450 to 634,284.

Water utility officials now will begin looking down the road to set new long-range conservation goals. A series of town hall and neighborhood association meetings will be held to get community input on what those goals should be and how we can achieve them.

Having enough water to support appropriate growth in the dry Southwest will continue to be a challenge. But the water utility and its customers have embraced that challenge and moved the goal line in the right direction.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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