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  • Author or Editor: David S. Gutzler x
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David S. Gutzler and Joshua S. Nims

Abstract

The effects of interannual climate variability on water demand in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are assessed. This city provides an ideal setting for examining the effects of climate on urban water demand, because at present the municipal water supply is derived entirely from groundwater, making supply insensitive to short-term climate variability. There is little correlation between interannual variability of climate and total water demand—a result that is consistent with several previous studies. However, summertime residential demand, which composes about one-quarter of total annual demand in Albuquerque, is significantly correlated with summer-season precipitation and average daily maximum temperature. Furthermore, regressions derived from year-to-year changes in these variables are shown to isolate the climatic modulation of residential water demand effectively. Over 60% of the variance of year-to-year changes in summer residential demand is accounted for by interannual temperature and precipitation changes when using a straightforward linear regression model, with precipitation being the primary correlate. Long-term trends in water demand follow population growth closely until 1994, after which time a major water conservation effort led to absolute decreases in demand in subsequent years. The effectiveness of the conservation efforts can be quantified by applying the regression model, thus removing the year-to-year variations associated with short-term climate fluctuations estimated from the preconservation period. The preconservation regression provides a good fit to interannual summer residential demand in subsequent years, demonstrating that the regression model has successfully isolated the climatic component of water demand. The quality of this fit during a period of sharply reduced demand suggests that the conservation program has effectively targeted the nonclimatically sensitive component of water demand and has sharpened the climatically sensitive component of demand to a level closer to the consumption that is “climatically needed.”

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