Home Water Conservation

Stewart Lake by DVW

Over the past three years, our family has consumed 38% less water than the prior owners of our house. During this same time period, the neighbor’s water consumption has been 9 times our water consumption in a house of similar size. Learn what you can do.

What are we doing that reduces water consumption and does it apply to others?
These are the identifiable actions that we have taken to reduce our water consumption.

  • We have a water catchment system that captures 85% of the water/snow that falls on our house. The water is stored in a 5000 gallon underground cistern and is used for irrigation of our plants. We have a barrel under the canale that is not connected to the cistern to use for manual watering of plants, etc. Roof Reliant Landscaping
  • The first year that we lived here, we had a plant expert assess our yard for xeric. We had good xeric plants, except for one (Salt Cedar or Tamarisk). It was removed in about 3 nanoseconds.
  • The programmable controls on the irrigation system provide the flexibility needed to deliver water to only where and when it is needed. Most of the water is provided by drip. Drip is about 3x more effective than a sprinkler systems as there is less evaporation. The only sprinkler is for the small grass area. ( I would like to find a replacement for the grass, but have not found one yet) We check the irrigation system each spring for leaks and make repairs so that large amounts of water don’t go squirting all over the place.
  • During the warm season, we typically water twice per week for about 20 minutes. Watering less frequently allows for more depth. We adjust to keep the plants alive.
  • We grow vegetables in pots and water these pots by-hand. We use a moisture meter and water as the meter indicates, which is usually daily for plants like tomatoes.
  • We collect water from our shower in a 3 gallon bucket and use it for watering plants. We have a re-circulating pump that gets hot water to the shower with minimal waste of water. Also, our re-circulating pump is controlled by a manual button. It runs for about 8 minutes to get us hot water, vs. those who use timers for re-circulating pumps that run for hours. Running a re-circulating pump for hours wastes both electricity and your water heating fuel.
  • We collect excess water in the kitchen by having a 2 quart pitcher for storage. We use the water for plants or for compost watering. For directions on how to start a simple backyard composting system, http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/SWB/documents/NMEnvironmentDept_CompostBroc...
  • Last year, we started to use straw bales to build check dams to reduce erosion on the property. Be sure to stake them to the ground, as strong run-off will move straw bales significant distances if not staked ( I have the proof). These check dams not only reduce erosion, but also retain water for your plants. Retaining water is legal. Detaining water to build a pond, etc is not legal. A good resource on water harvesting is Brad Lancaster, http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/aboutbrad/. He has written several books on the subject.
  • Check for leaks routinely. These can use up a lot of water.
  • We have a front loading washing machine, which uses significantly less water than a top loader. A DOE study showed that front loaders use 38% less water (7000 gallons/year) and saved 56% of the energy. For more details, http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/appliances/washers.html.
  • We do not use bottled water. The amount of water that you actually use for drinking is an extremely small portion of your total water consumption. Bottled water has a lot of negatives….>200x more expensive, same quality, disposal of the bottle, etc.
  • We have a septic tank. This is not good. I don’t think that we have a choice, based on where we live. Municipal waste water treatment plants are a very effective way of recycling water. Almost all of the water input to a waste water treatment plant is re-used.
  • Energy and water consumption are tightly coupled in the inter-mountain west. The Buckman Direct Diversion project which will be the primary source of water for the City of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County for the foreseeable future will used 25,000 MWh of electricity every year. This is equivalent to 65% of what the municipality of Santa Fe currently consumes. So, reducing water usage, also reduces energy consumption.
  • Bottom line, use only what you need.

- David Van Winkle