Water suppliers remain concerned about the possibility that investments in water‐use efficiency may make it harder for their customers to comply with voluntary or mandatory restrictions when such restrictions are needed to deal with extended periods of shortage. Water resource planners call this phenomenon demand hardening. Although the unease about demand hardening has never risen to the point of deterring investments in long‐term water‐use efficiency, neither has it subdued over time. Because prior published literature on demand hardening remains sparse, New Mexico has used case studies and comprehensive, rigorous examination of the issues involved by focusing on the historical shortage experience of water suppliers located throughout the arid Southwestern United States. New Mexico offers fertile ground for studying the linkage between long‐term conservation and an area’s ability to respond to shortages.
To deal with imminent shortages, however, water suppliers rely on customers’ ability to make time‐limited adjustments to their behavior, such as significantly reducing irrigation in mild shortage events, or in more severe events completely discontinuing irrigation and reducing indoor use as well (by flushing less, washing fewer wash loads, etc.). Until now increases in indoor water‐use efficiency have resulted mainly from replacement of old plumbing fixtures and appliances with newer, more efficient varieties. Outdoor water use is still significant, which means if need be, customers can significantly reduce their total demand by making steep cuts in water use, specifically irrigation, which will remain the first priority for adapting to imminent shortages.
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Demand Hardening and Water Supply in New Mexico