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]