The Santa Fe River is flowing again, just in time for Earth Day. No; it’s not because the reservoirs upstream are getting too full from the snow melting in the mountains above. There’s not that much snow this year. It’s because the City Council voted 2 months ago to keep some little bit of flow in the river, year-round. That new policy just started last week.
Santa Fe River on Earth Day 2012
Letting some water stay in the river was a huge step for our local city leaders. Legally speaking the water belongs to the city, and there is a reservoir upstream designed to hold that water and release it directly into the water treatment plant, and from there into the plumbing systems of the 30,000 water utility customers. Why let the river have any of that water?
Just as an alcoholic should be praised for not drinking, we can praise our city leaders for not diverting the last bit of water from our long-suffering river. We are becoming sober and clear-headed again. We are learning to see the river as a part of nature that we can enjoy for its very existence: Live and let live!
That’s the official Earth Day message from the United Nations: Harmony with Nature. When the UN voted, just two years ago, to adopt April 22 as International Mother Earth Day, they also started an annual Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature [This connects to info about the 2011 Dialogue; presumably the 2012 Dialogue will be folded into the Rio+20 meetings]. See especially the Report of the Secretary General (dated 15 Aug. 2011) which gives a sweeping overview of how we came into dis-harmony and what to do about it. I was pleased to see a reference to the role of values: “We must look at the bedrock of our intrinsic human values, at the intentions behind our actions.”
The latest podcast from High Country News provides a perfect illustration of how to re-create harmony with dead rivers in Los Angeles and Tucson. Along with the effort to “daylight” the Los Angeles River (see folar.org) they are also trying to reclaim the tributary streams that used to feed the river, and which are now mostly running under urban hardscape. In Tucson, efforts to revive the Santa Cruz River run up against a visioning problem. It’s hard to imagine how the river can come back to life while the City’s water demand keeps increasing.
Maybe Santa Fe offers a way out. The first step is the commitment to keep some water in the river; just leave it there. The next step is to re-calculate water management based on that living river. “Harmony with Nature” like “Harmony in Marriage” depends on sharing and respect.
Ancestral Puebloan Rock Art along the Santa Fe River