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Water use down this year in Albuquerque, utility says

The city-county water authority says customers have used 812 million fewer gallons in 2019 compared with last year. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque endured a hot, dry summer this year. Temperatures are still above average, and the monsoon season never made a big splash. But that hasn’t stopped the city from conserving water.

At its board meeting Wednesday, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority said customers, through Sept. 9, have used 812 million fewer gallons in 2019 compared with this same time last year. That equates to about 4 fewer gallons per person per day.

Carlos Bustos, water authority conservation program manager, said the original goal for this year was to reduce water use by 1 gallon per capita per day.

Bustos credited the city’s water conservation programs and customers’ efforts to save water as reasons for the drop.

“It’s not surprising to see how customers react to weather in Albuquerque,” he said.

The city offers rebates for residents to update home appliances and install xeriscape landscapes that use water more efficiently. Albuquerque also uses a “water by the numbers” program that allows residents to choose which days to water their yards.

Last year, Albuquerque water use was 125 gallons per capita per day. The water authority has a goal of 110 gallons per capita per day by 2037.

The board also approved an application for a Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART grant. The maximum amount awarded by Reclamation would be $750,000, which would be matched by the water authority.

Katherine Yuhas, ABCWUA Water Resources Division manager, said the grant would be used for a new project to store surface water from the river in the aquifer.

“This project would be a series of small infiltration ponds that we could actually put in neighborhoods as sort of a neighborhood enhancement,” Yuhas said. “The water would move underground very quickly, so the ponds wouldn’t hold water very long. We have a vision of these infiltration ponds as wetland areas with lots of plants and maybe a walking path.”

Recharging the aquifer is part of the Water 2120 plan to address the city’s future water needs. Aquifer levels have rebounded in Albuquerque since 2008, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The San Juan-Chama Project and the city’s aquifer storage and recovery projects have contributed to rising aquifer levels.

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