Let’s find out about rain gar­dens


I’ve lived in the South­west my whole life, but I keep on dis­cov­er­ing ways to save wa­ter. I started off like ev­ery­body else by buy­ing my first rain bar­rel. I watched as the rain flew off the rooftop dur­ing the mon­soon and over­shot my bar­rel by a foot and was un­able to move it due to thewater in­side it. I learned that as quickly as I col­lected the wa­ter I also had to use it be­cause an­other rain­storm usu­ally fol­lowed. I also learned that 50 gal­lons doesn’t go very far and so went on to buy many oth­ers. We seem to be mostly concerned about not get­ting enough rain, but for some of us the goal of cap­tur­ing the rain that we do get is pretty fun.

The City of Santa FeWater Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gram has a weekly ra­dio show called SaveWater Santa Fe. It’s on ev­ery Thurs­day morn­ing at 8 a.m. on 99.9 FM or 810 AM. The last four or five shows I have in­ter­viewed Reese Baker from the RainCatcher; Rich Schrader from River Source; Melissa McDon­ald, the City’s River andWater­shed Co­or­di­na­tor; Aaron Kauff­man from South­west Ur­ban Hy­drol­ogy; and Andy Otto, who is the di­rec­tor of theWater­shed As­so­ci­a­tion. In the last month or so they have taught me all that I know about rain gar­dens.

Rain gar­dens are in­fil­tra­tion basins built right into the land­scape that are planted with grass, trees, and other plants that are sus­tained by the wa­ter cap­tured. The wa­ter that is col­lected would oth­er­wise run down streets and ar­royos and even­tu­ally into the river. Be­cause wa­ter is be­ing cap­tured from im­per­vi­ous ur­ban ar­eas like drive­ways and park­ing lots, it also cuts down on the amount of pol­lu­tants that can en­ter the river. Stormwa­ter runoff is of­ten deemed a nui­sance, but if it’s re­tained in these types of basins this can be a ben­e­fit. They are care­fully con­structed so that they can cap­ture the max­i­mum amount of wa­ter pos­si­ble to sup­port the plant­ings but drain usu­ally in 24 hours.

You might have re­cently heard about the Alameda Rain Gar­den, which had its grand open­ing on April 8, 2017. It is lo­cated onW. Alameda, across from Si­co­moro Street, and was de­signed as part of the Santa Fe River Demon­stra­tion Rain Gar­dens Pro­ject. With part­ner­ships be­tween the City of Santa Fe, the Santa FeWater­shed As­so­ci­a­tion, the Na­tional Fish andWildlife Foun­da­tion, Wells Fargo Bank, The RainCatcher, and South­west Ur­ban Hy­drol­ogy, the en­tire pro­ject demon­strates the re­ten­tion of over 300,000 gal­lons of wa­ter per year. With the grand open­ing, our of­fice has re­ceived a lot of feed­back on the op­por­tu­ni­ties the city has to con­tinue to part­ner with the pri­vate sec­tor to do more work like this.

From the per­spec­tive of wa­ter con­ser­va­tion, gar­den­ers who adopt these tech­niques in their yards will har­vest more wa­ter for their plants that would oth­er­wise run into the ar­royo or storm drain thus re­duc­ing potable wa­ter use. On an even larger scale, though, wa­ter har­vested from park­ing lots or roads could com­pletely sus­tain large plant­ings along­side build­ings or road­ways that would be so beau­ti­ful and ben­e­fi­cial to our com­mu­nity.

Christine Y. Chavez has a back­ground in wa­ter rights ad­min­is­tra­tion and en­ergy and wa­ter con­ser­va­tion pro­gram man­age­ment in the state ofNewMex­ico. She is a grad­u­ate of New Mex­ico State Univer­sity with a B.S. in en­vi­ron­men­tal science and an M.S. in bi­ol­ogy. Christine is theWater Con­ser­va­tion Man­ager for the City of Santa Fe. She may be reached at 505.955.4219 or cy­[email protected]

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