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.
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 March, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 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.
That means the city is starting the year behind – again. The snow pack in area watersheds in January was at about 70 percent of normal for that time of year. All regional reservoirs are already at very low levels because of the drought and there is 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 full firm yield for the first time since the project was created.
However, because 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.
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.
So, Santa Fe is ready but Santa Feans must keep in mind that the City water plan also counts on conservation.
Santa Fe is in fifth consecutive year of drought and this past summer was the hottest on record. Although late summer monsoons eased drought conditions somewhat, reduced snow pack could mean little run-off and an exacerbation of drought conditions this spring and summer.
To save water year-round, residents should consider
- Look for appliances with the WaterSense label, which certifies the equipment meets federal water-saving standards, and consider replacing older washing machines and toilets 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 suffice, and save the water you run while you wait for it to warm up to water your indoor plants or fill up your pet’s water bowl.
- 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 will a basin with water for rinsing those that can’t be scraped.
- Only wash full loads of dishes or clothes.