Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A New Mexico expert seeks alternative irrigation sources to save potable landscaping water

Angela Simental at the New Mexico State University News Center: New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service Specialist Bernd Leinauer is a turfgrass expert, studying and researching ways to preserve green spaces in places like New Mexico, where water scarcity is a big problem. “Our research is all about water conservation. We are focusing on water preservation in the landscape,”

Leinauer said. “We need water to grow plants in the desert, but when water is used for aesthetics instead of food, for example, it becomes questionable. So, how much water can we afford to use?” Leinauer found that approximately 50 percent of potable water usage during the summer in Las Cruces goes to irrigating the landscape.

“That is true for almost any city in the desert Southwest,” he said. “Which is considered non-essential, but I would argue that it is important because when we have green space, it contributes to our well-being and moderate climate, but at the end of the day, it is a large amount of water we use for the urban landscape.”

... Leinauer said cities are taking measures to keep landscaped spaces, especially in residential areas, but reducing the outdoor and landscaped area in new housing developments, which consequently reduces the area of irrigation. A second proposed conservation strategy is to have new developments receive two water lines: one for potable water and one for non-potable, treated water for outdoor irrigation, he added.

Leinauer’s research also explores alternative irrigation sources to using potable water while maintaining safety and aesthetics. “The treated effluent a city produces should be considered an alternative source of water. It’s not potable, and so far it is just put into the river and sent to El Paso and eventually on to Mexico,” he said. This water can potentially be used for irrigation in Las Cruces since other cities such as El Paso, Albuquerque and Santa Fe use it heavily for their parks and golf courses.

...Another part of the water conservation project is investigating new and more efficient irrigation systems. Leinauer has been looking at using subsurface water to decrease the waste of water. “This way you take irrigation out of sight and below ground, therefore, you are not throwing it in the air before it has to land on the ground,” he said. “One of the reasons we use so much water during the summer, especially in the residential sector, is that irrigation systems we have in place are extremely inefficient. You see water on the sidewalk or water running down the street. That is not efficient and beneficial use.” ...

A water meter on a church in Taos, New Mexico, shot by Brian Thomas, who is releasing this glamorous image into the public domain

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