In New Mexico, we’re all wet this year

March 22, 2019

On World Water Day, March 22, things are looking up for New Mexico.

Spring is here, yet snow is still falling. That bodes well for healthy rivers in spring and summer.

According to the National Weather Service, the snowy winter has left the basin that feeds into the Rio Grande healthy — snowpack in mountains where the headwaters form is about 135 percent above median levels. What a difference from 2018, when the river had record low flows. Without intervention, the river likely would have stopped flowing in spots.

In the Rio Grande Basin, conditions reported last year were extreme and exceptional drought. Those are the two worst categories. This winter, we have seen one of the best seasons for snow in years. Above Santa Fe, the ski area has received 259 inches and it’s still snowing. Ski Santa Fe hasn’t been able to extend its season through April for more than a decade; this year, it will wrap up on April 14.

Even better, climate prognosticators say models continue to call for above-normal precipitation over the next three months. This year, the Rio Grande should not run dry.

With extreme weather becoming more common in this era of changing climate, this snowy winter is one to savor. A healthy snowpack might not all end up melting into the river; winds or warm rains could reduce its impact. Thirsty soil could soak up water, also affecting how runoff makes its way to the river. Still, to have the possibility of a runoff that keeps the river flowing is something for which we can all be thankful.

All of this does not mean that water is plentiful. Santa Fe residents know to turn off the faucets while brushing teeth or to catch rainfall in barrels to make what rain or snow we do receive go further. Always, though, we can do more.

City water utility customers are encouraged to download the Eye on Water app, which helps keep track of how much water their property uses. This can be especially valuable during months when water rates are higher; that’s when a leaky toilet or pipe can be costly. (To create an account, go to santafenm.eyeonwater.com and follow the instructions.)

For more information about how to conserve water, visit SaveWaterSantaFe.com. The city has a variety of rebates to encourage customers to conserve, whether replacing older water fixtures indoors or going outdoors to invest in drip irrigation or rainwater catchment.

This World Water Day, we can take heart that New Mexico is not in drought. The day, a United Nations annual observance, is designed to make people all over the world more conscious of the importance of freshwater. As the U.N. saying goes: “Whoever you are, where you are, water is your human right.”

In Santa Fe on March 22, 2019, we have reason to celebrate.