2015 Starts with Water Shortage, Again

Good planning and a diversity of sources mean Santa Fe will have adequate water supplies this year, despite El Niño’s no show so far; but the dry winter is a signal to residents that conservation is a year-round commitment, city water managers said today.

Forecasters last fall predicted El Niño, the pattern of unusual warm temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that typically results in increased precipitation for the Southwest, could bring a wet winter to New Mexico. But through the end of the month, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is still predicting the pattern is possible, the chances have dropped off and the skimpy moisture so far means Santa Fe would need several strong storms to recover.

“We’re starting 2015 behind, again” said Rick Carpenter, City of Santa Fe Water Resource and Conservation Manager. “Currently, the snow pack in area watersheds is at about 70 percent of normal for this time of year. All regional reservoirs were already at very low levels because the drought resulted in no carryover from last year.”

In addition, deliveries of San Juan/Chama Project water, water from the San Juan Basin piped into the Rio Grande that is a major supply for Santa Fe, ended the year at 89 percent of the maximum annual supply that is expected to be available at any given time since the project was created.

City water managers said that should not cause problems for city water customers.

“Santa Fe has several water sources and has banked San Juan/Chama diversion water in upstream reservoirs. The city expects to be able to meet demand this year,” Carpenter said.

He noted the City has invested in a robust and diverse portfolio of four distinct water supply sources that allows for flexibility in meeting demand: Buckman well field, City well field, Canyon Road Water Treatment Plant on the Upper Santa Fe River, and the Buckman Direct Diversion on the Rio Grande.
“We’re well prepared but Santa Feans must keep in mind that our water plan also counts on conservation,” he said.

Santa Fe is in fifth consecutive year of drought and this past summer was the hottest on record, City officials said. Although late summer monsoons eased drought conditions somewhat, reduced snow pack could mean little run-off and an exacerbation of drought conditions this spring.

  • Look for appliance with the WaterSense label, which certifies the equipment meets federal water-saving standards, and consider replacing older washing machines and toilet with high-efficiency models.
  • Take showers, not baths, use a low-flow showerhead and take shorter showers.
  • Test toilets for leaks and repair any faucet drips.
  • Don’t use hot water when cold will do and save the water you run while you wait for it to warm up to water your indoor plants.
  • Turn off the water when you brush your teeth or wash your hands until it’s time to rinse and fill the sink with water when you shave instead of letting it run.
  • Scrape dishes instead of rinsing them for the dishwasher – most dishwashers can handle all but the most heavily soiled dishes — and fill a basin with water for rinsing those that can’t be scraped.
  • Only wash full loads of dishes or clothes.

For more information about water conservation in Santa Fe, including the Drought Water Management plan, residential and commercial rebate programs, and outdoor/indoor water use requirements please visit www.savewatersantafe.com