U.S. Water News Online
CORRALES, N.M. -- Residents who maintain lush lawns in this
semi-arid climate often comment that xeriscaping their yards would
cut back on maintenance, but complain they can't afford to change
their landscaping and xeriscape their yards. The reason given is that
most of the residents of Corrales and Los Ranchos have their own
private water wells and don't receive a water bill at the end of each
These residents have no idea how much water they are pumping from
the aquifer, according to local officials -- a fact that grates on
the nerves of many Albuquerque and Rio Rancho residents who do not
enjoy the privilege of access to unmetered water. These residents
have long since reconciled themselves to yards of gravel and desert
The root of the problem, according to Albuquerque Mayor Martin
Chavez, is that "we all have one glass and a lot of straws." And the
cost of sipping runs the gamut.
Xeriscaping (water-saving landscaping using local natural
vegetation) has become a matter of economic survival for city
dwellers, who face skyrocketing water rates. Albuquerque residents
pay 91 cents for each 1,000 gallons of water. In Rio Rancho the price
is $1.74. Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack said that's why so many
homes in his city emphasize gravel over grass.
In Albuquerque, Chavez' aggressive water conservation campaign has
drilled into residents that the aquifer is not limitless -- that the
nest egg from thousands of years of water deposits is being spent
four times faster than Mother Nature can replenish it. In
Albuquerque's war against water waste, Kentucky bluegrass is widely
accepted as public enemy number one.
Corrales Mayor Gary Kanin said water conservation initiatives
haven't made much of an impact on his village, once a farming
community, but now considered an elite suburb. "No one in Corrales
gets any city water. Everyone has domestic wells. That's what makes
us a little bit different from the other cities. Our perspective is a
little bit different," Kanin said.
When you talk to village residents about the aquifer, their main
concern is that some of the shallower wells may go dry if the water
table drops. They also talk about the electricity their pumps use.
But those worries don't affect their water use much, according to the
mayor, who concedes no one has yet tried to get residents here to
give up their grass.
"People moved to Corrales to get away from the bureaucracy," said
Kanin. "Most people here think what government regulation we have now
is in excess. I don't think something like that would work."
But in nearby Rio Rancho, water-friendly xeriscaping has become
the order of the day. Here residents satisfy themselves with a small
patch of green amidst the stones and desert plants.
One resident of Rio Rancho, Ron Shimek, has found installing his
xeriscape as time-consuming as caring for a lawn, but when he is
finished he expects maintenance to drop off. As drought-resistant as
most of his landscaping is, Shimek said his water bill still runs
about $70 a month.
"I guess you can't avoid that here," Shimek said.
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