The mission of the Santa Fe Watershed Association is to protect and restore the health and vibrancy of the Santa Fe River and its watershed for the benefit of people and the environment. We achieve this through education, restoration, stewardship, and advocacy. From the River’s headwaters to the Rio Grande, we honor the connection of people and the watershed.
Local hydrologist Paige Grant founded the Santa Fe Watershed Association in 1997 to combat the consequences of gravel mining in the village of Agua Fria, where the bed of the Santa Fe River had been the primary source of gravel for the area since the 1940’s. Ongoing mining had stripped away most of the riparian habitat in the area. Once work began on restoring the River at Agua Fria, Paige quickly recognized a lack of a singular voice for the health of the river and the watershed as a whole. Gravel mining in the lower river, garbage and debris in the middle river, and a lack of holistic forestry practices in the upper river all were connected and in urgent need of attention. This realization quickly resulted in a more expanded mission and vision for the watershed. Our “Adopt-the-River” program has been going strong ever since. SFWA then began monitoring projects and tours in the upper watershed, followed by other educational programs, expanding to “Adopt-an-Arroyo,” and constructing rain gardens throughout the city.
In 2007 the Santa Fe River was named America’s Most Endangered River by American Rivers, which let SFWA to advocate for a Living River Ordinance. The City of Santa Fe passed the Ordinance in 2012, which allocates up to 1000 acre-feet of water per year for the river in “normal” (non-drought) years. The River now supports a diversity of wildlife and flora, as well as nearly continuous green-space for people to enjoy. While this has been a major achievement and has transformed the Santa Fe River Corridor, the challenge of justly dividing water is ever present as droughts become more common and human population grows. We continue to promote holistic management of the Watershed through our various programs and invaluable collaboration with local nonprofits and city, county, state, and federal government branches. SFWA has been awarded “Best Environmental Group” by the Santa Fe Reporter for 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.
The Santa Fe area faces the ongoing danger of catastrophic fire in our overgrown upper watershed, located above the City drinking supply reservoirs. Management of the forests that safeguard the reservoirs has been an important theme for the Watershed Association, but in the past few years we have given new attention to the middle and lower stretches of the river.
In particular, we are advocating restoration of consistent flow to the river to support vegetation and wildlife habitat, while recharging the groundwater. We are striving to create a sense of responsibility and common interest among all residents of the watershed.
Additionally, our education programs have provided opportunities for locals to experience the Santa Fe River and its watershed through both school and public programs. Programs are designed to highlight a variety of ecosystems and explore ways that humans impact water and water impacts humans.
Click here to explore real-time flow levels around the state!