The Xeric Transect is Where We Live, Work, Play

The theme for the 15th Annual Water Conservation and Xeriscape Conference is the “Land Use, Water Use Connection” and includes the transect from the natural environment to the urban environment.

The weather in Albuquerque is warmer than it was when we left Denver yesterday, but that’s not due to global warming or climate change. It’s always a bit warmer here in late February when the Xeriscape Council of New Mexico puts on its annual conference.

I look forward to this conference every year, not only to escape the chillier Denver weather, but to hear well-regarded experts talk about water issues. For the first time in several years, there seems to be more optimism in the tone of the presentations.

That’s not to say we aren’t still in the midst of a water crisis, but it just seems there’s more hope in working together to find solutions.

As John D’Antonio, New Mexico State Engineer said during the water conversation panel this afternoon, “We only have collaborative solutions when it comes to water.”

Before focusing on the Urban/Neighborhood and Suburban quadrants of the transect, the day began with the keynote presented by Dr. Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute who gave the Global Water Update.

Dr. Gleick issued a challenge to conventional thinking. The water crisis isn’t the result of lack of water resources or the lack of brains, because there is water for basic human needs, but it’s a problem of access and quality. One billion people in the world don’t have access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people don’t have adequate access to proper sanitation.

The solution to water problems isn’t that we aren’t smart enough or don’t have the technology and it isn’t a lack of infrastructure, we need to stop taking the demand for water for granted. Dr. Gleick said that the assumption is that a bigger population needs more water and this isn’t true. We actually use less water for everything in the U.S. today than we used 25 years ago because of efficiency and the improvements we’ve made in the way we use water.

He also said that we need to start treating lawns like we now treat smoking. It used to be accepted that people smoked on airplanes, but that’s changed over the years with a change in society’s values. “A nicely manicured lawn should be a liability,” he said.

“We need to get HOAs to stop requiring lawns, get water agencies to promote alternatives to lawns and price water accordingly and fairly.”

We also heard from Dr. Richard Jackson on the Health and Climate Nexus, Albuquerque City Forester Nick Kuhn on the Urban Forest, Sustainable Urbanism from Doug Farr and Scott Calhoun’s take on Small Yard Landscaping. I plan to share some of their thoughts here in the future.

Tomorrow’s session will focus on the two remaining quadrants: Rural/Agriculture and Natural environment.


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