The last eleven months have been the driest on record since 1895. Many have asked how we are proactively planning and preparing for drought exacerbated by climate change so that we, as a community, are not merely reacting to a “water emergency” during a crisis.
The city water division and the water conservation office are structured to encourage a collaborative, proactive and comprehensive approach to drought. They include participation by multiple stakeholders that address issues important to different community sectors such as city and county governments, schools, private businesses, community advocates, nonprofits and many others. Participation by multiple stakeholders broadens our ability to mitigate drought and prioritize our long-term actions.
For years, the water division has worked hand-in-hand with the community to plan, whether it be by describing the benefits of our investments for water delivery infrastructure, or structuring water rates to signal the scarcity of water in the high desert. More recently, our expanded partnership plans to save native bee pollinators, improve our urban forest, native plantings, student education, career development, rain gardens and sustainable land and energy use have all played a role in our proactive planning that has been prioritized by the community.
Water Conservation is prepared to deal with the drought immediately. Collaborative work is being done with the city and county to jointly message on water conservation during the high-demand season and to partner on opportunities to address leaks and water waste. Efforts are focused on drought and educating students and their families on ways to save water. We are working with hotels, restaurants and shopping centers on water conservation opportunities and are leading by example by retrofitting 13 city buildings with more efficient water fixtures and appliances. We provide resources on how to use water more efficiently to new and existing residents, as well as our guests. Our job is never finished and the importance of water conservation never fades. We will continue to have much-needed conversations about water.
To begin this process, the community is invited to attend the Next Generation Water Summit, June 2 - 4. The theme of the Summit is Drought, Growth, and Social Inequity and all residents are able to attend for free. As part of the Summit, on June 5 there will be demonstration garden tours at the Water Conservation office building and at a new neighborhood raingarden pilot being constructed by Reese Baker. On June 6, we’ll be partnering with the Railyard on their Pollinator Day event. All of these weekend events will include pollinator seed giveaways, artist-painted rain barrel raffles and the roll-out of a new pollinator resource guide that will provide discounts at local nurseries on pollinator trees and shrubs.
And don’t forget, starting May 1, no outside watering from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and only three times per week. Watering during these cooler times of the day not only saves water but is better for your plants.
Christine Y. Chavez has a background in water rights administration and energy and water conservation program management in New Mexico. She is a graduate of New Mexico State University with a B.S. in environmental science and an M.S. in biology. Christine is the manager of the City of Santa Fe's Water Conservation Office. She may be reached at 505-955-4219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.