Los Lunas

Although the Village of Los Lunas has a water conservation plan in place, no water-usage restrictions have been set to deal with the current drought.

“Our residents are conserving water on their own right now, more than we expected,” Village Administrator Phillip Jaramillo said Tuesday. “We are being very successful. That’s why we haven’t set any restrictions. It’s all being done by total volunteers.”

In the past year, Los Lunas has seen its water revenue go down, even with a price increase last October, Jaramillo said. That means people are using less water.

Water users now pay 25 cents more per 1000 gallons of water after the first 2000 gallons.

Comparing water revenue from this February, the village saw a change from $2,084,435 last year to $2,048,057 this year, with an approximate savings of $40,000.

“Right now, we’re running 15 percent below last year’s figures in revenue. That’s pretty significant. It’s a clear indication that conservation is occurring,” he said.

A little more than 3,000 accounts make up what Jaramillo calls the “small” water system in Los Lunas. “We’re still growing. New homes are being added, including more businesses than before.”

According to Jaramillo, businesses, even large ones, use less water than residences. “They don’t need very much. They only need a couple of bathrooms, and there are no showers.”

Along with monthly billing notices, the utilities department gets the word out on water conversation. It sends written information to residents on how to deal with water leaks and dripping faucets. Reminders are given in newsletters about how to water your grass and when.

Utilities Director Betty Behrend says the village conducts leak detection surveys every three years. “We try to provide the consumer with a financial incentive. On their bills, they can compare their usage to previous months and to last year,” she said.

“The pricing discourages increased consumption. In the past, we’ve given out thousands of kits that are low flow aerators that go on kitchen and bathroom faucets. Toilet dams are bags that fill with water and hang in tanks of toilets so you don’t use as much water when you flush.

“We are trying to educate people about reducing their use. People are shocked when they realize how much a little leak adds up to in gallons, and they have to pay for that. I think people are really modifying their behavior and using less water. Consumers are cutting back.”

A few years ago, the village set out to save water when it gave low-flow shower heads to residents in the community in exchange for their older models.

“Water conservation is a program we do year-round, even when we don’t have a drought condition,” Jaramillo said.

The New Mexico Youth Conservation Core in Los Lunas does its part by educating the community and local schools about proper water usage. “The kids go home and teach their parents and neighbors,” Jaramillo says.

The goal of the YCC is to educate the youth and public about water conservation through landscaping, says Michael Jaramillo, director of Los Lunas Parks and Recreation.

“We actually went into the community where there is high water use and converted them into … more efficient systems, using native plants and trees.

“We also started going into the schools last year to talk with grades one through five on how water is being depleted in the aquifer for general use. Our goal is to protect our natural resources.”

What are some small steps to save water? Jaramillo suggests taking shorter showers and not letting the water run while brushing your teeth. Use the same water that you use to water your plants to give your pets. “Instead of waiting for the water to warm up a bit, utilize that extra water for plants and other things. It’s a matter of educating and training ourselves in our daily routine.”

Art Mondragon, the community development director, is working to create for local businesses a list of drought-tolerant plants that use less water. The list will be implemented as part of the Main Street Overlay plan.

“We’ve received a copy of Albuquerque’s tree species list, and we’re working with a local botanist, Mike Melendrez, from Trees That Please, in developing a list of trees and ground cover that survive here,” Mondragon said.

“Shrubbery uses a lot of water. I think a lot of the trees that are brought in do, too. Where I live, there were trees that were not native to the area, like the willow tree. I had one in my front yard, and it did not survive. Most of my neighbors have replaced those trees with others.

“We need trees that are good for the area and won’t consume a lot of water,” he said.

“Those are just a few programs that are paying off even now,” Jaramillo said. “We’ve been dealing with the issue for quite a long time.”

Now that summer is here and the weather is warm, Jaramillo says, residents want their yards to be covered in green grass.

“Now, water conservation is on everyone’s minds. They’re cutting back on water usage.”

Driving around Los Lunas, Jaramillo has gone for days without seeing some people watering during the day. “They are watering early in the morning or late at night. That’s when they get the best return for their money,” he said.

“I usually water my lawn once a week. Before, I used to do it two or three times. My grass is a little yellow, but it’s surviving. It doesn’t have to be totally green. We need to all do our part to pitch in and conserve water.”

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Jennifer Harmon