Much of the Southwest is in its fifth year of drought. Public environmental concerns, as well as market considerations, have forced builders to investigate how to address water shortages.

New Mexico builder Mike Chapman of Chapman Homes is demonstrating water-conserving technologies in a house at Rancho San Marcos, a new-home community in Santa Fe, N.M. Santa Fe used to receive 10 to 12 inches of rain per year, so even before the current drought, water was a scarce resource. Chapman's project, part of the national Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH), uses rainwater harvesting and graywater systems to harness normally unused water.

The rainwater harvesting system collects rainwater from the roof into gutters, where downspouts carry it into a 1,200-gallon underground storage tank. A pump distributes the water from the storage tank to irrigate landscaping around the 2,300-square-foot, ranch-style home. According to the builder, between April and October 2002, the system collected almost 11,000 gallons of water--about one-third of the home's irrigation needs. Chapman now offers the system as an option in all of the new homes he builds.

Chapman's home--in the middle of drought-ridden Santa Fe County--also has an orchard. A graywater system collects and filters water drained from the home's bathtubs, showers, and sinks. This water is then pumped out to a sub-surface portion of the mulched orchard.

NAHB Research Center staff members are evaluating the rainwater collection and graywater reuse systems. For more information on the Santa Fe PATH project, call 800-898-2842.