By Cassie McClure
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News 4.24.2022
Two years ago, Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) engaged a community-led Water Conservation Steering Committee (WCSC) to give feedback on its long-term water plans and suggestions for steps LCU can take with residents and business owners to enhance water conservation efforts in Las Cruces. LCU has paused final approval and release of the plan but will be able to start some of the incentives spurred on by the actions of the WCSC, including incentives for replacing high-use fixtures and turf removal.
The committee is comprised of seven members: Vice-Chair of the LCU Board of Commissioners Edmund Archuleta; Eddie Binns, realtor business owner, and developer; Mathew Dynek, assistant director of the Physical Plant Department at Las Cruces Public Schools (LCPS); Dale Goodman, community member active in water conservation efforts; Amy Miller, general manager of Marriott Courtyard Las Cruces at NMSU; Kathy Precoda, real estate broker; and Jimmy Zabriskie, City of Las Cruces (City) Community Forester who represented their respective water user categories within the community, including single-family residential, multi-family residential and, small, large and industrial commercial categories. A few of the members shared their reflections.
“A few months after we moved to Las Cruces in 2011, I became a master gardener and quickly realized that I was living in a desert. A beautiful, diverse, enchanting desert, but a place without excess water nonetheless,” said Goodman, who has participated in local, state, and national programs to educate and encourage conservation and sustainability. She also helped draft New Mexico House Memorial 1 2017 [a summary of major water policy problems and solutions], all the while practicing conservation and stewardship daily.
“I’m most excited about the efforts of the committee to increase awareness, curiosity, stewardship, and staff who can expand LCU’s outreach, especially to the young people who have the time, curiosity, and motivation to care and learn, rethink, and remember how to care for themselves and their home – the land, the earth, the desert.”
“As the assistant director of the Physical Plant Department at LCPS, our department is tasked with maintaining all facilities, grounds, and district-owned vehicles,” Dynek said. “Being stewards of large areas of turf and landscaping in the desert, we must do our best to manage our water usage as best we can while still supporting a safe and fun environment for kids.”
He said that his time on the committee is changing how he approaches the irrigation needs through the LCPS system. “Using what I've learned on the committee, we've specifically focused our efforts on irrigation upgrades and the implementation of low water usage landscaping, for example, planting native plants and xeriscaping when we make upgrades. We're currently close to completing the conversion of a quarter of LCPS’s irrigation to new web-based controllers,” he said.
Archuleta has believed in planning ahead for water needs, even when he started as the CEO of El Paso Water Utilities in 1989. There he created public education initiative for the region. He recalled a billboard that said that El Paso wasted enough water to fill the Sun Bowl in three days.
“I brought my experience of El Paso to the committee and asked the consultant and LCU to talk to the people in El Paso, Albuquerque, and Tucson because those are three cities that were pioneers in water conservation in this region. They heard what works, and the result was to push tools and programs to incentivize the public to conserve water.”
“We have to have stronger city ordinances, stronger enforcement, and a stronger message and support from the City of Las Cruces City Council and the Chambers of Commerce,” he said. “The business community is important to sustainable, long-term growth.”
“Conservation of water is one of the key points to save the planet. We have to do it; it's time to do it; it's past time,” Archuleta said. “Water rights and rules and regulations govern it, and you have to abide by that, but regardless of that, to make sure that Las Cruces continues to be a sustainable community that can grow and attract the industry and is a viable community, water conservation has to be at the top of the list in terms of our livability here in our desert community.”
LCU – Your Utility Connection. Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities
For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: A native plant and drought tolerant yard doesn’t have to be just rocks. LCU WCSC member Dael Goodman’s yard is lush and lean on water usage. (Photo Courtesy Dael Goodman.)