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Pilot program to look at expansion of rainwater harvesting

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and The New Mexico Water Collaborative today unveiled the first of nine varied rainwater harvesting systems being installed throughout Albuquerque as part of a new pilot project.

The unveiling of the 1,000-gallon collection system at Urban Fresh Cosmetics on Broadway marked the kickoff of a program to assess the effectiveness of intensive rainwater harvesting as a conservation measure.

“This is more than just putting a couple of rain barrels in the back yard,” said Water Authority Chairperson Maggie Hart Stebbins. “This is about installing a wide range of rainwater harvesting systems and determining whether it makes sense to do that at the scale of a residence or small business.”

The Urban Fresh system was constructed with assistance from the Water Authority and the non-profit The New Mexico Water Collaborative. Two businesses and seven residences were selected to participate in the program, out of more than 300 applicants.

Hart Stebbins said the pilot systems, which feature a wide variety of materials and technologies, will be assessed over the next two years to determine their effectiveness, operational costs and ease of use.

“We’ll use this information in deciding whether we should expand our rainwater harvesting rebate program to include these more-sophisticated systems,” Hart Stebbins said. “With more than 40 percent of our overall water use going to outdoor irrigation, we’re always looking for new and better ways to save water in our yards and gardens.”

The Water Authority already provides rebates for installation of rain barrels, with the amount depending on the size of the barrel (up to $150 for a 1,500 gallon container).

The Water Authority and Water Collaborative will check in with each recipient over the next two years to assist with seasonable maintenance. Also, each system has a flow meter installed so that their use of rainwater can be tracked.

“This program is truly a group effort and would not have been possible without generous financial support from PNM & PNM Resources, the Albuquerque City Council and specifically Councilor Isaac Benton, and Bernalillo County Commissioners and fellow Water Authority Board Members Debbie O’Malley and Art De La Cruz,” Stebbins said.

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