Why A Living River?
Another way to find more water for our river is through conservation. While it is true that Santa Fe water customers have been doing a better job each year with water conservation, there is much more that could be done. Around the country, cities are using less water per capita than they did just five years ago, thanks to increasing awareness about simple ways to conserve water, such as low-flush toilets, improved shower heads, etc. Here are additional ways to gain greater impact on water conservation:
1. Rooftop water harvesting. Many cities are capturing water before it becomes stormwater. This can provide a valuable substitute for using City water for landscaping. Since landscape irrigation accounts for a big portion of peak summer demand — which is also when the river is most in need of water for its environmental health — capturing and storing roof-top water can be an important part of meeting the river’s water needs.
2. Improved landscape water use. Santa Fe gardens use a lot more water than they need to, even to meet their often questionable objectives of looking like a garden somewhere other than in the arid Southwest! There are many small ways of saving water in the garden, which add up to significant savings. The Water Division’s site on Water Conservation Demonstration Gardens gives lots of ideas.
3. More efficient household appliances that use water. Of course your toilet is low-flow, but are you using a front-loading washer? Are you using the shortest cycle on your dishwasher? Does your shower heat up instantly [Mine doesn’t…!]? Appliances you use every day can yield considerable water savings.
4. Water re-use. From dumping the pan of dish water on the plants, to configuring your septic tank to convert black water to grey water and connecting it all to a drip irrigation system, there is a world of creativity awaiting you in the challenge of re-using water. The more times water can be re-used within the home and garden, the less water you will need from the City water supply and the more water will be available for our thirsty river. You can find many ideas about water re-use, and other conservation tips, from the Blueprint for Santa Fe.
For an overview of the City’s long-term plan for water conservation, see the Water Conservation Office’s website, Save Water Santa Fe.
Water Rights for the Santa Fe River
One way people are dealing with environmental flow for rivers is in the concept of purchasing water rights. This concept has been applied throughout the West in some form or other. These experiences are outlined in a report from Trout Unlimited, entitled, “Liquid Assets.” Click here to read this report.
Learn more about environmental flow
Environmental Flows Network Newsletter, produced by the International Water Management Institute, IUCN, TNC, and other environmental and water organizations, connects the disparate people who are working on this topic.
“A Collaborative and Adaptive Process for Developing Environmental Flow Recommendations,” a recent article by B. Richter et al. published in River Research and Application
Desert’s Rivers Can Be Revived, an op-ed piece by Melissa Lamberton in The Arizona Daily Star, highlights the experience of South Africa and its relevance to Arizona (and by implication, to New Mexico as well).
FLOW – The Essentials of Environmental Flows, published in 2003 by the Water and Nature Initiative of IUCN – The World Conservation Union. This site provides the publication as a free download, along with other information and links regarding the economics of living rivers.