Some city in the United States will become the water-recycling capital of the country. Why not Santa Fe, New Mexico? This is a logical place to grow this industry. Santa Fe by necessity has a large need for recycled water. We are an area prone to drought. We have a very high ratio of water professionals in our state. These are a few reasons we could become the water-reuse capital of the country.
Why not put programs together to make this an economic engine for the area as well as New Mexico? Israel has used its need for water conservation to grow multibillion-dollar worldwide water businesses. The Water Smart Innovation Conference is held annually in Las Vegas, Nevada, bringing together conservation professionals from around the world. These are examples of how water conservation can be linked to economic vitality.
Why should we care? The history of New Mexico unfortunately is littered with mass migration out of the state due to severe droughts. One doesn’t have to look any further than Santa Fe and the severe drought of a couple of decades ago. At that time the City announced that it was running out of water due to lack of supply and the drought. That announcement drove tourism away and hurt the homebuilding industry, which took years to recover. Since then the city has become a leader in water conservation and has greatly diversified our water supply.
So what would a strategy look like? It would mean our state and local economic-development efforts would target people and businesses in this industry. It would mean we put in place programs that highlight existing businesses and attract new ones to our community and state. It would mean we would have centers of excellence. It would mean we would partner with our local education institutions to make sure we’re training individuals in these fields, so companies would have ready access to a local workforce. It would mean we put programs promoting Santa Fe and New Mexico as the place to be!
Colorado State University (CSU) is teaming with the National Western Complex for the One Water Solutions Institute, connecting world-class research with real-world solutions. The university plans to complete its water laboratory, which will be a water-reuse showcase, by 2021.
New Mexico could move into a leadership position, resulting in new jobs and the ability to promote the state as having a sustainable long-term water plan. Water is key to our survival in this beautiful, but harsh state. We can lead, follow, or get out of the way. We need to grow local industries to provide good paying jobs for our communities. Why not water, why not here?
Doug Pushard, founder of the website www.HarvestH2o.com, has designed and installed residential rainwater systems for over a decade. He is a member of the Santa Fe Water Conservation Committee, a lifetime member of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, and an EPA WaterSense Partner. He can be reached at doug@HarvestH2o.com.