This past year has really brought into focus the significance of our water shortage in New Mexico. With the Río Grande running out of water before it even leaves the state, our reservoirs at record lows and our water tables continuing to drop, it is easily apparent that we need to change the way we use our water.
The city of Santa Fe has done a particularly good job in bringing this to the consciousness of its citizenry with its promotion of low-flush toilets, water-efficient appliances and xeriscape gardening techniques. You may ask, “What more can we do?” The truth of the matter is, we have just scratched the surface.
Industrial agriculture is the main water user in New Mexico. We have already begun changing from open ditch irrigation to closed, piped systems. There is drip irrigation, and new greenhouse methods are being developed that produce more plants on less water. The Bioponics Institute, in collaboration with Santa Fe Community College, is building an aquaponics model for demonstration and education. Aquaponics is a means of producing fish for consumption in a symbiotic relationship with the hydroponic growing of produce. Growing organic produce in this manner consumes as little as 2 percent of the water needed to grow the same amount of produce in a field.
The conservation focus has largely been on residential use. Commercial and industrial water users consume a great deal. There are major potential water savings to be realized in this area as well. Some examples include evaporative coolers and cooling towers. The Santa Fe County Public Works Complex on Hwy 599 has 22 evaporative coolers. In order to deal with lime-scale buildup, it was bleeding off 5 percent of the feed water. This is a lot like leaving 22 faucets running. By installing a HydroFlow device to deal with the lime scale and eliminate the need to bleed off water, the savings is about two million gallons annually. A large, 500-ton cooling tower can dump approximately 300,000 gallons a month down the drain to avoid lime-scale buildup. The HydroFlow system can cut water waste by as much as 50-to-95 percent.
Even with xeriscaping, there still is a lot of turf requiring a significant amount of water (Example: Santa Fe Plaza, city parks, resorts). At New Water Innovations we are working with a company that, through the use of buried wireless sensors, can accurately control the water being applied to assure healthy turf without overwatering. The resultant water savings is 30-40 percent. Looking to the future, we are working with a German company, Busse, that has a small, self-contained, residential water treatment system that will process all of the residential wastewater, reducing it to bacteria-free water cleaner than rainwater. We are hoping to get state approval to allow this unit to furnish clean, recycled water for reuse in toilets, washing machines and showers.
Our dwindling water is a significant problem, but with imaginative solutions we have the opportunity to make tremendous strides in water savings that will allow us to continue to live in harmony with our beautiful environment.
Mike Koepke is with New Water Innovations.
New Water Innovations
New Water Innovations is a small Santa Fe-based business with over 20 years of experience providing chemical-free water treatment solutions to residential, commercial and government clients. NWI’s HydroFlow system can be the solution for lime scale, bacteria, algae, filtration enhancement and corrosion reduction.
There are other environmental and financial benefits, including: reduction in electricity and water heating equipment usage; reduction or elimination of chemical usage, safety precautions and chemical disposal; non-intrusive installation, no change to the existing footprint and no plumbing alterations; average return-on-investment is less than two years.
New Water Innovations
1512 Pacheco St., Ste. C-104, Santa Fe, NM 87505