Decoupling in water, Albuquerque style

Total water use in Albuquerque for the first 11 months of 2015 is down 6 percent from the same period in 2014, according to the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s latest pumping and diversions report. Indoor use (as measured indirectly by comparing this year’s sewage treatment plant outfall to last year’s) is essentially unchanged, suggesting that the bulk of the savings are in outdoor watering.

Since the sewage treatment outfall is being returned to the system for full use downstream (ecosystem, agriculture, downstream communities, and Rio Grande Compact deliveries to Texas), that means an estimated decrease in consumptive use (the outdoor use that really matters because the water cannot be returned to the system for reuse by others) is down a remarkable 13.5 percent.

Weather is clearly a factor here. Albuquerque precipitation is 15 percent above average for the calendar year. But also worth noting is that we have seen year after year of decrease, in both wet years and dry years, so community water users are doing something more complicated here than simply watering less when it’s raining.