Question 2: In your opinion, in this potential extreme drought year, are river flows through the City at risk of being terminated or should we strive to conserve more water?
I would first of all describe this as a false choice. The Living River Ordinance defines the quantities that should flow in the Santa Fe River based on snowpack measurements. I do not believe that flows would be terminated, but rather are regulated on this basis – a system well vetted in Santa Fe. If the question is should we abandon the Living River Ordinance so that we can proactively decide not to allow any water to flow down the Santa Fe River, that answer is no. We need to keep and maintain the Living River Ordinance. The choice of that or striving to conserve more water is odd to me, as my answer to the question of whether or not we should strive to conserve more water is yes, regardless of flows in the Santa Fe River.
I think that our community has always shown a strong commitment to water conservation, which shows in Santa Fe’s low per-capita water usage. That being said, there is still room for improvement and we should always be looking for new and creative water conservation measures. Now that we have access to water from the Buckman Diversion, we should have more flexibility to maintain flows of the Santa Fe River through the city, even in periods of draught.
Unfortunately, in the case of a truly extreme multi-year draughts (which may become more likely with the effects of climate change) it may not be possible to always guarantee these flows, even with additional conservation measures.
In my opinion, the likelihood of a “water emergency” per the administrative procedures is not high. The city manager has the authority to suspend river flows under specified water emergencies. The river ordinance completely defers to the administrative procedures when it comes to suspending flows. Under an “orange” alert, river flow suspension is possible. Under a “red” alert, flows “shall” be suspended. We would do more ecological damage by completely eliminating the river flows. Therefore, I feel that if a red alert is triggered, we can suspend the administrative procedures and allow for the absolute minimum flow of 300 ac-feet. We may not have the luxury of any pulse flows, but we can keep the river living with timely flows under a minimum 300 ac-feet. Ironically, when Article VII of the interstate compact with Texas is triggered, as it is now in this drought, where Elephant Butte has under 400k acre-feet in storage, upstream water rights holders such as Santa Fe cannot impound water and must allow inflows to be released from reservoirs. Our next effort should be to amend the River Flow Ordinance if the seepage studies favor a relaxation of the river flow requirements in the administrative procedures.
This community has been effective in its efforts to conserve water. However, I think we can do more and that conservation is one obvious way to increase water supplies that can be used to meet the various demands being made on that resource.
We should always strive to conserve more water. Santa Fe has done very well at conserving per capita consumption of water. We should look at incentives for businesses and high water users in the community. Nonetheless, I think it might be unlikely that water savings could be accounted for quickly enough to provide some equivalent amount of water for the river when it would be most needed, and I don’t think it should be an either/or question. I generally support staying with the mechanisms of the Ordinance even in drought
*Note: These questions were submitted for distribution by the individual members of the Board of Directors of the Santa Fe Watershed Association. The questions and the resulting answers are posted as they were submitted and were not edited prior to this posting. The order of the responses in the survey, were in the order that they were received by us. The Santa Fe Watershed Association does not endorse any one candidate for any of the offices being contested. The information is deemed reliable but cannot be guaranteed.