In the arid Southwest, we are famous for our amazing vistas and our summertime virga – the rain that never falls. Virga makes for vivid sky formations: it is as if we are being teased with rain but never quite receive. This year it seems we are blessed and cursed with abundant virga formations. Skies at sunset are often filled with red downward streaks of rain or during the day dark clouds on the horizon with downward streaks that never touch the ground. On our hot midsummer days, these naturally occurring formations feel as if they are robbing us of the much-needed moisture to cool evenings, clean the air, and provide much-needed water for our landscapes.
It seems rain is more an illusion than a reality these days. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (droughtmonitor.unl.edu) about 98 percent of New Mexico remains in a drought condition, with 91 percent in severe drought. It is not just the Southwest. Other regions of the country and the world are experiencing some of the warmest and driest periods in recent history. Water, and especially rain, are critical to our way of life. “Water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP, spur migration, and spark conflict,” according to The World Bank study High and Dry: Climate Change, Water, and the Economy.
Mother Nature’s rains seem to always be on the distant horizon – never quite granting us her gift. Our acequias used to be the bloodlines that allowed water to flow through our neighborhoods and to the fields now long gone. We depend on the local rains, pumped water, or water imported from Colorado via the Rio Grande and the San Juan/Chama diversion project. Without this latter source we would depend greatly on pumping of water out our aquifer.
Hopefully 2017 is the year we begin to take action to protect our communities, improving our water security through creating a regional water board with the authority to tax and approve regional projects — one that represents the city, the county and our surrounding watersheds to plan our water future. For our own well being and that of our children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children, there has never been a better time to act.
Doug Pushard, founder of the website www.HarvestH2o.com, has designed and installed residential rainwater systems for over a decade. He is a member of the Santa Fe Water Conservation Committee, a lifetime member of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, and an EPA WaterSense Partner. He can be reached at doug@HarvestH2o.com.