ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With people staying home during the pandemic, Albuquerque’s Water Utility Authority says we’re using much more water. 2019 is a “success story” when it comes to water conservation in Albuquerque, reaching its lowest usage in 20 years. 2020 is another story.

“Last year was a great success story. We hit our per capita usage, the lowest in 20 years of conservation. The community of Albuquerque conserved almost a billion gallons,” said Carlos Bustos, who manages the conservation program for the Albuquerque Water Utility Authority. “Things have changed, definitely, and this year, we’ve seen a surge in water usage. It’s partly because people are working from home but also because it’s been drier and hotter.”

Bustos says people are likely washing their hands and clothes more during the pandemic, and with a mostly hot and dry summer, they’re using their sprinklers more to keep their home lawns green and plush. Each drop used adds up.

“About 1.2 billion gallons more at this same time last year,” said Bustos. “That’s huge because we’ve still got five or six more months to go in this year.”

If that pattern continues, we’ll use more than double what we saved last year. Bustos says with not much added to the surface water we use like the Rio Grande, we’re tapping into our ground water that took millions of years to build up.

“Whenever we don’t have really good monsoon or snow, this year, specifically, we’re tapping into our ground water source,” said Bustos, who remains hopeful a good forecast will bring more surface water in. “Last week, we had pretty good rain events throughout the city and it’s looking like this weekend is about to be the same.”

The Water Authority hopes people will keep in mind how important it is to save as much water as they can. While they’re not asking you to shower less or not cook as much, it can be as simple as turning off your sprinklers and letting Mother Nature do her job.

“When it rains, let’s not irrigate,” said Bustos. “Let’s turn off our irrigation system.”

Bustos says just 20 days of not using sprinklers would get Albuquerque back on track for saving that precious water. The Water Authority says now is also a good time to start any home improvement projects like giving old toilets and sprinkler systems an ‘efficient’ facelift.