Santa Fe, NM: Not like Cape Town

Julie Ann Grimm has a piece this week in the Santa Fe Reporter explaining Santa Fe’s approach to water management this year that’s a nice demonstration of why we don’t have incipient “Cape Town” situations (cities about to run out of water) in New Mexico:

Groundwater wells that have mostly been resting on the city’s west side since the construction of a Rio Grande diversion are likely to get put back into action this summer.

Dismal snowpack and low rainfall so far this spring mean water in the river is scarce.

These have long been the plans in Santa Fe, where officials decided in the early 2000s to build a massive infrastructure project to draw water off the river. The Buckman Direct Diversion went online in 2011, becoming a fourth source in the water supply portfolio for Santa Fe’s homes and businesses, along with two well fields and the Rio Grande. Since the reservoirs on the smaller Santa Fe River are also low due to the drought conditions, that leaves the wells.

Santa Fe has multiple sources of water that are relatively independent of one another, so they’re not vulnerable to the sort of single-point failure that has hurt Cape Town so badly. Albuquerque is likely to use a similar approach this year. This is one of the keys to municipal water supply resilience.