Despite the continuously evolving challenges and losses 2020 brought, the Santa Fe Water Conservation Office made significant strides in programmatic efforts to reduce annual water consumption. To start, the city’s restaurant conservation program was awarded by Green Building Media, Inc. for its leadership endeavors in administering 35 audits evaluating water usage from all the participating restaurants’ appliances. The restaurant program continues with restaurant auditors being trained and certified in partnership with the EnergySmart Academy at Santa Fe Community College and a technology partnership with Phyn. What we learned with the restaurant industry will now be applied to our new Hotel Pilot in 2021.

Additional city water conservation activities for the year included the following highlights:

• Finished fourth in the nation for cities of our size in the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.

• Recorded a 30 percent reduction in commercial water use since the advent of COVID-19.

• Noted a “GPCD” (gallons per capita per day) of 87 gallons of water used per day in 2019, the lowest use on record.

These impactful accomplishments throughout 2020 under arduous circumstances signify the city’s commitment to its 25-year Sustainable Santa Fe Plan.

In 2021, the Santa Fe Water Conservation Office aims to develop more city oriented partnerships, including a neighborhood rain garden pilot project to build out public spaces for educational demonstrations with social distancing in mind. A complete overhaul of the education program with a virtual hybrid passport model will also launch this fall with task force guidance from previous passport teachers and city education outreach partners. Additional educational goals are integrating efforts with city departments such as library, recreation, and transportation to distribute water-conservation outreach materials to residents. Educational reinforcement will also incorporate water protection and sustainability messaging into public art displays through the city’s art commission and tourism offices. As for sustainability measures, improvements will be conducted to the rebate program that include passive rainwater capture to incentivize residents to utilize supplemental water sources for outdoor irrigation.

On the policy side, more focus will be directed to reducing outdoor water use, beginning with public input sessions held among stakeholders to solidify the program’s foundation. Last, but not least, the Water Conservation Office will continue to work closely with the water conservation committee under the leadership of Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth to discuss and implement new opportunities.

2020 was the first implementation year of our 5-year plan and despite COVID challenges the water conservation office adapted quickly to working from home and continued to provide programming to residents. Our progress against the 2020 scorecard is available at as well as our 2021 scorecard which was approved by our water conservation committee. We look forward to the New Year and to the new opportunities that have presented themselves in this challenging time. Happy new year to everyone. Looking forward to all of our work together in 2021.

Christine Y. Chavez has a background in water rights administration and energy and water conservation program management in New Mexico. She is a graduate of New Mexico State University with a B.S. in environmental science and an M.S. in biology. Christine is the manager of the City of Santa Fe’s Water Conservation Office. She may be reached at 505-955-4219 or

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