There is a drought in Santa Fe. It is real and it is serious. It is so bad that city residents and businesses could face mandatory water rationing as early as June 6.
Underneath the deceptively green haze of spring, Santa Fe's desert heart is burning through. The winter was dry. The spring has been drier. April and May have been as warm as June. Much of the light mountain snowpack simply evaporated in the early warmth. The spring runoff is only a trickle. "If I had $500 in the budget, I would hire Indians to dance for rain," says Richard Moore, the city parks director.
Weather forecasters don't think dancing will help. The sky grows cloudy but no rain falls. No significant rain is in sight. And for a city already water-stressed, with a population swelled for 15 years by people with what one writer described as "humid habits," that could mean serious problems.
Most residents appear to have ignored calls last month for voluntary reduction of water use. As a result, the city began moving this week to impose mandatory rationing on all water users...[Santa Fe Public Utilities Director Mike] Hamman said people in the city are using just as much water as they did a year ago. April water use was nearly identical for the two years. But last year was a wet year.
The mandatory cuts are meant to save 25 percent "across the board" on water use. Hamman said the regulations are likely to include monitoring of water flow and "an enforcement mechanism," though he would not be more specific. "That is based on the city wells pumping full time. If something breaks down and cuts the flow, we would be calling large water users and asking them to limit use at certain times."
"People need to be able to use the toilet, take an occasional bath, have water for drinking and cooking," Hamman said. "Beyond that, in a drought situation, it's a luxury." People aren't taking the idea of a water shortage as seriously as they should. "Our notion of what 'shortage' means has changed," he said. "In the 1930s, it meant you could die of thirst. Now most people think it only means you're going to lose your favorite flowers."
Hamman made it clear that a lot more is at stake than a pot of geraniums, but most people are not cutting back.
This year marks SFR's 40th anniversary. Celebrate with us by reading excerpts of stories that have graced our pages through the years. Despite being in a wonderfully wet monsoon season, Santa Fe is still in drought.