Water Energy Nexus
Summer is near, gardens are growing, and so is your water usage. Consequently, your water bill will increase. Santa Fe is blessed to have multiple water sources (the Santa Fe River watershed, the Rio Grande, and wells), but conserving water is a prudent habit in the arid southwest.
Legally we can only pull somuch from the RioGrande and snowmelt defines our limits in the Upper Canyon reservoirs as well as the long-term viability of our wells. Our water diversity provides us a good deal of water security, but at a cost. We have some of the highest peak summer water rates in the country.
During peak season at $21.72 per 1,000 gallons over 10,000 gallons, these high rates add up quickly. Summer water bills can quickly run in the hundreds of dollars. Instead of water conservation being a nicety, it is an economic necessity. Fortunately, there are a multitude of ways to reduce your peak summer water bill, some small and others big, some easy and some hard, but the impact is all the same: less water used and an easier water bill.
So what is the best way to reduce your water bill? Fortunately, a new tool has entered the market to make it easier. It is called theWater Efficiency Rating Score, WERS for short (in full disclosure, I am one of the co-authors of this new tool) and it rates the efficiency of both indoor and outdoor water use. WERS provides a baseline score for the fixtures inside the home as well as the landscape outside the home. This baseline can then be compared to proposed changes.
Let’s say your home rates a WERS of 90. After the assessment you are provided a list of potential changes and each of these changes is accompanied by an impact to the score. For example, if you install an EPA-labeled smart controller for your irrigation system, you will lower the WERS to 85; whereas installing a few rainbarrels may lower your score to an 80. With WERS, lower is always better.
“The Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association is proud of its role in the development of the WERS tool,” said the association’s executive officer, Kim Shanahan. “We know water will truly be a limitation on future growth in our region. TheWERS tool will confirm that conscientious builders who go beyond code-built homes can continue to accommodate that growth.”
Mike Collignon, executive director of the Green Builder Coalition, said, “The flexibility of theWERS Program allows for its use on new or existing properties. It’s hard to manage what you don’t measure. By doing this kind of analysis on an existing property, the owner can better identify the target areas for improved efficiency.” More about WERS can be found at www.wers.us, or Santa Fe Community College has a course June 14-16; see www. sfcc.edu/NM_energySmart_academy/ WERS.
Savingwater is always in season and now it has become easier. You may want to become aWERS verifier to assist others in savingwater or youmay want to have a WERS performed on your home to better understand your options. Either way now is the time to save water and lower your water bill.
Doug Pushard, founder of the website www.HarvestH2o.com, has designed and installed residential rainwater systems for over a decade. He is a member of the Santa FeWater Conservation Committee, a lifetime member of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, and an EPAWaterSense Partner. He can be reached at doug@HarvestH2o.com.