Zero runoff should be our goal
Today we allow a precious resource to flow away. In fact, in many cases we encourage it to go down the drain. We have done an amazing job of drilling, piping, and moving water to accommodate our desired lifestyles. It is one of the reasons we can thrive in an arid area. But at the same time, we have treated this same resource with disdain. We don’t want it on our property, our neighborhood, or even close by. We build our houses to shed water as quickly as possible. We build our lots to do the same. We build our streets with drainage systems to move this nuisance away as quickly as possible.
But the time of cheap, easily accessible water is past and it is time to rethink our approach to this life-sustaining resource. We need to keep every drop on our property, in our neighborhood, and as much as possible in the city.
Santa Fe did not have significantly more water in the past. We pumped less water and the river was allowed to infiltrate our neighborhoods as it flowed off the mountain. This was before we dammed, channeled, and blocked the natural flow. Although flooding is not something we should contrive to return to, infiltration is. It will recharge our local aquifer, our natural water storage system.
We spend large amounts of taxpayer dollars on channeling water off Cerrillos Road, which still floods after every major storm. We continue to build more homes and commercial establishments to contribute to this flooding.
I repeat, ZERO runoff should be our goal. To do this, we need to rethink how we build and handle rain and runoff. It is not stormwater; it is water that can help sustain us long-term. Instead of channeling it away, we need to bermit, pond it, slow it down; allow it to infiltrate here in our back yards. This will continually recharge our local aquifer.
We pay taxes that are used for stormwater upgrades throughout the city as well as for improvements to the Santa Fe River to prevent further erosion. These taxes do not pay to eliminate the cause of the problem, just the effect. Consider a rainwater tax that would only be paid if there is runoff; otherwise there would be no tax. Today we can get a citation for letting water run off our property. A rainwater taxwould be the same, butwould be implemented at the beginning, when a building is built, and then every year until the runoff is retained onsite.
This would drive our water consumption down, and revenues that are collected could be funneled back into the water-conservation program. Let’s create a cycle of savings that will last for generations to come.
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 FeWater Conservation Committee, a lifetime member of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, and an EPAWaterSense Partner. He can be reached at doug@HarvestH2o.com.