Albuquerque’s Green Program Turned Around A Dwindling Water Supply

Albuquerque’s Green Program Turned Around A Dwindling Water Supply
Albuquerque’s Green Program Turned Around A Dwindling Water Supply
Thanks to a progressive media campaign, Albuquerque has succeeded in getting residents to conserve water, reducing use by one-third even as the city has grown by approximately one-third.

Albuquerque is a city flowing with innovation and cooperation, and nowhere is that more evident than in its efforts to ensure a viable water supply for the future.

Faced with a rapidly depleting underground aquifer as its primary water source, the city has embarked on an ambitious plan to divert additional water into the region and conserve the supply it already has.

According to Mayor Martin J. Chavez, the two main components of the program are to access San-Juan Chama water from the Rio Grande River and purify it for drinking, and to reduce water consumption by one-third in 10 years, even as the city’s population continues to grow.

The San-Juan Chama water project is already being used to deliver non-potable water for irrigation purposes, and residents are expected to begin drinking the water in the first quarter of 2008. Despite a rate increase, “Albuquerqueans have responded phenomenally well,” Chavez says.

They responded to the city’s water conservation efforts equally well. In fact, the city achieved its goal of 30 percent reduction six months early. Part of that success can be attributed to the widespread media campaign that accompanied the program, which used various types of publicity to implore Albuquerqueans to cut their consumption.

“We asked people to take shorter showers, use low-flow toilets and shower heads, and we developed a system of incentives and rebates to motivate them to do it,” Chavez says, adding that City Hall was very aggressive about cutting its own consumption so as to lead by example. “No one’s going to listen to you if you don’t walk the walk,” he says.

But people from all over the world are listening to Albuquerque now. The city received a World Leadership Award from the World Leadership Forum for its exemplary efforts in water conservation, and the program was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as one of the best of its kind in the country as well.

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