SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Santa Fe is trying new ways to conserve water. “In the last 25 years, the city of Santa Fe has reduced our per capita average water use per day by almost, we’ve cut it almost in half,” said Jesse Roach, director of City of Santa Fe Water.

“Even though we’ve reduced demand by almost half, it’s about 34% here, our population has actually increased by about 25%,” said Bill Schneider, water resources manager for City of Santa Fe Water.

Water officials say the city is a leader in conservation, with many programs already in place to efficiently use the scarce resource; however, critically low storage levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell are causing water authorities along the Colorado River Basin to come up with new ways to conserve water. Santa Fe is signing on, along with other communities to expand efforts to bring down demand and recycle water supplies locally—and they have a few ideas on how to do this: “One that we can see clearly is this idea of reducing outdoor watering. And demand in the outdoor arena. And so, one of the first places to focus on is on turf,” Schneider says.

Officials say there are around 80 parks throughout the city. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) water authorities are signing onto a call for a program to reduce the quantity of ‘non-functional turf grass’ by 30%. Schnieder explains ‘non-functional’ in this case means grass that is not drought resistant and is only ornamental. Instead, they want to focus on more native, drought-resistant plant species for these areas.

“We think we can quickly identify some of the larger water users that may be great candidates for redesign; modifications to the irrigation systems; putting irrigation on high-resolution timers; these are things are going to unfold here over the next three to five years,” Schneider says.

Roach says the use of turf is quite low in Santa Fe compared to other cities, but they think this is a logical next step to reduce water usage. “We’re working on sort of demand projections right now for our next round of long-range planning, and we’re throwing out there sort of as a target to get down to 80 gallons per capita per day, and we’re at about 90 now, so a little bit more than a ten percent reduction from where we are now we’d like to get in the next two decades,” said Roach.

Schneider says turf replacement is already underway in some parks around the city. The city is also working on a project called the San Juan Chama Return which is designed to recycle dirty water that came from the Colorado River. That project is still in the permitting and design phase.