Sum­mer­time is here. Save even more!

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Sum­mer­time brings higher wa­ter rates and higher wa­ter bills be­cause it’s ir­ri­ga­tion sea­son. There are var­i­ous easy strate­gies to re­duce your wa­ter us­age, for ex­am­ple com­post­ing, mulching, and slowly chang­ing out plants for a more drought-tol­er­ant land­scape. These can be done with­out pro­fes­sional help and are all very cost-ef­fec­tive ways to save wa­ter and money, plus make your plants very happy.

There are many more ex­ten­sive things you can do to help lower your sum­mer wa­ter bill. The City of Santa Fe has been train­ing qual­i­fied wa­ter ef­fi­ciency land­scape (QUEL) au­di­tors for the last sev­eral years.

There are now close to 100 of these pro­fes­sion­als who can help iden­tify what you can do to save wa­ter out­side. This EPA-spon­sored pro­gram cov­ers the ef­fi­ciency and ef­fec­tive­ness of your ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem. A list of these QWEL raters can be found at www3.epa.gov/wa­tersense/ find­apro.

One of the most cost-ef­fec­tive out­door wa­ter-sav­ings step you can take if you have an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem is to in­stall a rain detector. These de­vices cost $50-$125 (de­pend­ing on whether wired or wire­less) and shut off or pause your ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem if it has rained re­cently. They are avail­able any­where where ir­ri­ga­tion equip­ment is sold and can be hooked to al­most any ir­ri­ga­tion con­troller. These de­vices will gen­er­ally pay for them­selves in a year or two and are rel­a­tively easy to in­stall.

Another wa­ter as­sess­ment you can do is aWater Ef­fi­ciency Rat­ing Score (WERS). It looks at the en­tire house, both in­side and out­side. This pro­gram was in­vented here in North­ern New Mex­ico to pro­vide a wa­ter per­for­mance as­sess­ment of new and ex­ist­ing homes. The as­sess­ment will pro­vide a score as well as a list of recommendations to re­duce your wa­ter us­age. One of the unique as­pects of this as­sess­ment is that the recommendations can be ranked for­wa­ter sav­ings, from high­est to low­est, in­clud­ing both in­door and out­door im­prove­ments.

If you are in­ter­ested in be­com­ing a WERS rather, train­ing for this pro­gram is avail­able through Santa Fe Com­mu­nity Col­lege with a course com­ing up in the fall. More in­for­ma­tion about this pro­gram can be found atwww.wers.us or at the SFCC web­site, www.en­er­gys­mar­ta­cademy.com/wa­ter.html

One of the likely recommendations of a WERS as­sess­ment is to cap­ture and re-use wa­ter. Whether rain­wa­ter, grey­wa­ter, or black­wa­ter, re­cy­cling wa­ter is one of the most cost-ef­fec­tive long-term so­lu­tions to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce your wa­ter bill. Al­though more ex­pen­sive up front, these al­ter­na­tives will sup­ply decades of lowcost, healthy wa­ter to your land­scape.

Liv­ing in the arid South­west, sav­ing wa­ter is in everyone’s self in­ter­est. With­out this pre­cious re­source none of us could live here. There are many, many steps you can take to re­duce your re­liance on the wa­ter grid as well as de­creas­ing your wa­ter bill. It all starts with tak­ing one step that is right for you.

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.

DOUG PUSHARD

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