Annual report says Santa Fe water supply is steady | Local News

Water supply in the city of Santa Fe remains steady, according to the city’s annual water report released Monday, despite exceptional statewide drought conditions that continue to hamstring much of the state. 

According to the report, reservoir levels and a decent snowpack heading into 2020 helped mitigate the impacts of consistent drought conditions, putting Santa Fe in a manageable position in 2021 and heading into 2022. But Jesse Roach, the city’s water division director, said reservoirs are expected to be strained throughout the year, and the city should expect to tap into its well system more than it did in 2020.

“We’re not in a crisis,” Roach said. “We’re in a good place as a utility heading into this really dry time. We have been resting our wells and will use them as we need them.”

According to the report, the city’s water system produced approximately 8,800 acre-feet of water in 2020, with 4,400 acre-feet from the San-Juan Chama Project and Buckman Direct Diversion and 3,300 from Santa Fe River water stored in two municipal reservoirs — a 6 percent increase compared to 2019. The rest comes from the Buckman Well Field and other city wells. 

Roach said he expects water production from those well sources to increase slightly in 2021 to counter increasingly dry conditions across Santa Fe County. 

Santa Fe is currently facing some of its worst drought conditions in years, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s U.S. Drought Monitor.

The entire state is experiencing some form of drought, according to the monitor’s most recent data, released Thursday, with 99.4 percent strangled by conditions deemed severe and worse.

More than half of New Mexico — including Santa Fe County — is experiencing exceptional drought, the monitor’s most intense category.

State Climatologist David DuBois said while he hopes he is wrong, he believes Santa Fe and other drought-stricken areas need to seriously think about water management as dry conditions continue. 

“We have been in drought since 1999, and it doesn’t look like there are any improvements,” DuBois said. “The more I look and the more I meet with fellow climatologists, some people are calling it a megadrought in terms of the intensity and duration. If it is anywhere near that, this is the sign we need to take this seriously.” 

Santa Fe usually gets close to 14 inches of rain from January to October, but according to the city’s annual report, only about 8 inches fell throughout the entire year. 

The rainfall was the lowest recorded by a gauge at the Santa Fe Watershed since the device was installed in 2006 and just over half what was recorded in 2019. The level was 60 percent less than the 10-year average, according to the report. 

The impact was noticeable in the city’s reservoirs.

The Nichols and McClure reservoirs, which are fed by the Santa Fe River, combined for 21 percent of capacity as of April 5, compared to 46 percent as of April 5, 2020, and 68 percent as of April 5, 2019.

San Juan-Chama water is predominantly held in the Heron, Abiquiú and El Vado reservoirs. The trio are holding 13,004 acre-feet of water, compared to 16,563 at the same time in 2020, and 12,237 as of April 5, 2019.

Roach said residents should be a little concerned about reservoir storage, but upgrades to the Nichols dam site, the smaller of the two municipal reservoirs, meant the Nichols would have to run empty by September.

“For us, operationally, a low water year on the Santa Fe River is OK,” Roach said. “Year in and year out, if we were at 20 percent in April, it would be a little concerning.”

The upgrades at Nichols dam are planned for 2021 and 2022 to address needed repairs noted by the state Office of State Engineer in 2019. According to the report, the impacts on water supply are expected to be minimal.

Similar repairs are…

Read More: Annual report says Santa Fe water supply is steady | Local News

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