Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall introduced four bills designed to encourage innovative solutions to improve water efficiency. The measures would not only help communities and individuals take steps to save water, but they would help save money and energy.
The bills are based on recommendations made during a Water Conference that Udall co-hosted with N.M. State University in Las Cruces. In 2012, Udall brought together farmers, industry, communities and individuals to talk about New Mexico's shared water needs. Afterward, he issued a report containing 40 proposed actions developed from the conference and related discussions. Udall has worked to advance the recommendations, including by introducing water efficiency legislation in Congress, and by fighting for funding for New Mexico as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“Water is crucial to our economy and to our quality of life. Our future depends on it. But many of us don’t realize how much water we lose simply to leaks and inefficiency,” Udall said. “We heard some great suggestions on how to meet this challenge during our water conference in Las Cruces. When communities save water—and focus on how those savings are treated—it is a great drought management tool.”
“One of the keys to managing our water future is to simply improve our infrastructure and prevent waste,” Udall continued. “That’s what my bills are designed to do: improve on what we’re doing now – while encouraging communities and individuals to innovate and think about ways we can increase efficiency.”
The following is a brief summary of the four bills:
The Smart Water Resource Management Conservation and Efficiency Act: Funds smart water system pilot projects in three to five cities across the country. Communities would compete for grant funding to develop innovative demonstration projects and to create a “smart-grid” for water – detecting leaks as soon as they happen, or even before they happen. The pilots would serve as models for other communities to replicate and build on. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports there are 880,000 miles of drinking water pipes in the U.S., many of which are decades old and prone to leaks. The U.S. loses an estimated 2.1 trillion gallons of treated clean drinking water to leaks annually.
The WaterSense Efficiency, Conservation, and Adaptation Act:Permanently authorizes and enhances the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) existing WaterSense program, providing a dedicated source of funding for the water equivalent of EnergyStar. WaterSense is an EPA-industry partnership effort to set voluntary technical standards for water appliances such as toilets, showerheads, and landscape irrigation systems that are at least 20 percent more efficient without sacrificing performance. The bill also establishes a grant program called the “Blue Bank” to provide water and sewer utilities with grants to improve water supply management, efficiency and encourage reuse. New Mexico water utilities serving Albuquerque-Bernalillo, Gallup, and Santa Fe offer rebates for WaterSense qualified appliances. More information can be found athttp://www.epa.gov/watersense/.
The Water Efficiency Improvement Act: Creates a 30 percent tax credit of up to $2,000 per taxpayer on the purchase of products that are certified under the EPA WaterSense program. These tax credits help offset the upfront cost of new water appliances, which then produce water—and financial—savings over time.
The Community Water Enhancement Act: Provides grants for rural communities seeking smart water systems, alternative water sources and more efficient use of current supplies. Several small New Mexico communities that rely on a single source of water have faced severe shortages and risked losing water access during the recent drought.