Love Your River — N.M. city honors river on Valentine's Day
U.S. Water News Online
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M — While sweethearts around the world were proclaiming their love for one another with flowers and chocolates, dozens of residents in one New Mexico city were turning to plastic trash bags and leather gloves.
Valentine's Day was declared "Love Your River Day" by Santa Fe city and county officials as a way to persuade residents of the capital city to show some love for their namesake river.
The Santa Fe River, considered by conservationists as one of the most endangered waterways in the country, has been reduced to sand and litter in many stretches. The fish are long gone and most of the river only runs when it rains.
"We definitely wouldn't have Santa Fe without a river and I would predict that we will not have Santa Fe in the future if we keep our river the way it is now," said David Groenfeldt, executive director of the Santa Fe Watershed Association, which organized the "Love Your River Day" with help from the city and county.
Dozens of residents spent part of their day to clean up trash along the river. They pulled out everything from aluminum cans and plastic bottles to a newspaper vending machine that was left behind by thieves who were after quarters.
This was the first time the annual event actually fell on Valentine's Day.
Groenfeldt's argument for encouraging people to show up — "It's cheaper than giving flowers and for some of us it's more meaningful."
But to keep from getting in trouble at home, he said: "I'm still giving flowers to my wife."
City and county officials were hopeful the event would rekindle the community's affection for the landmark.
The proclamation by Santa Fe Mayor David Coss said the city owes its 400-year existence to the river. He pointed to historic reports that refer to the clear trout stream that flowed through the town and the hundreds of acres of farmland that were once irrigated by the river.
In recent years, the city, county and watershed association have been restoring the banks of the river and planting native vegetation to control erosion. Scott Kaseman of the county's open space and trails program said the next step is getting enough water allocated to keep the river flowing year-round.
"We're doing everything we can to save it," Kaseman said.
The city owns most of the water rights. It stores its share in reservoirs upstream to ensure adequate supplies. Like most cities in the West, Santa Fe is careful about using its water as the population grows and arid conditions prevent reservoirs and aquifers from being replenished.
The watershed association believes a flowing river would help replenish groundwater sources and maintain the aquatic ecosystem that has nearly disappeared from the heart of the city.
The association is petitioning the city to share with the river 1,000 acre feet of water — less during periods of drought.
"We can have our reservoirs, we can harvest the water and leave enough for the river so that it can function ... and the equation will all work out," Groenfeldt said.
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