City budgets for higher water bills amid drought


The city over-budgeted for its water usage last year, but this year will be a lot different.

Even the Albuquerque International Sunport is planning for higher water bills as the county faces dry conditions.

“We are in a severe drought in Bernalillo County,” Bernalillo County Water Authority Public Affairs Manager David Morris said.

The Bernalillo County Water Authority said the dry conditions typically lead to more water usage.

“I think there is a tendency for folks to use more when the weather’s drier and we don’t get some rain to relieve things.”

That includes the city, which has a lot of landscaping to maintain.     

According to the city budget, the Aviation Department already plans on spending nearly $71,000 more this year, in part, on water because “an increase in water use is projected for the landscape maintenance due to abnormally warm weather.”

Document: City water budgets for 2018 and 2019 >>

In fact, the city of Albuquerque is one of the water authority’s largest customers. In 2017, the city used 2,888,365,000 gallons of water to help maintain the parks, medians and other landscaping, according to the Water Authority. That was just over the previous year’s 2.8 billion gallons.

The city budgeted for $10.1 million for it, but its Water Authority bill was actually $1 million less.

This year is going to be different though, as Albuquerque heads into one of the driest starts to summer it’s ever seen.

A level budget for FY 2018 means the city could spend $1 million more on water than last year and it would be covered.

However, Parks and Recreation, which has the biggest budget of all departments for water at $6.9 million, said it does not plan to spend more this year, adding Parks management assesses its water usage quarterly and is working with the Water Authority to help cut water costs.

“We’re working with them right now on a program to get some more trees planted in the parks that’ll provide some shade and maybe reduce overall water use when that shade gets going,” Morris said. “We’re also working with them to identify places where they might be able to automate sprinklers in order to maximize their irrigation efficiency.”

The Parks department said despite the drought conditions, it doesn’t plan to use any more water than last year, insisting parks and golf courses will not go unwatered.

To help homeowners avoid water overuse, the Water Authority suggests checking sprinklers for malfunctions and leaks; mulch around plants to keep in moisture; and follow the “Water by the Numbers” program which suggests people water twice a week in April and May, then ramping up to three days a week in the summer.

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