May 2017

Profile of the Santa Fe Watershed Association on its 20th Anniversary


Kristina G. Fisher


With education, stewardship, advocacy and on-the-ground restoration, the Santa Fe Watershed Association has worked tirelessly since 1997 to protect and restore the health and vibrancy of the Santa Fe River and its watershed for the benefit of people and the environment. 


When the river comes to life with flowing water each spring, it is thanks in part to SFWA’s advocacy of the 2012 “Santa Fe River Target Flow for a Living River” ordinance, which made Santa Fe the first city in New Mexico to set aside water to provide for annual river flows. For over 15 years, the SFWA has been taking care of 18 miles of the Santa Fe River corridor through its Adopt-the-River program in partnership with the city and county, local businesses, foundations, community members and volunteers. Over one million pounds of trash have been removed from the riverbed—the equivalent of 40 school buses of trash!


Other restoration efforts have included removing non-native elms, planting native cottonwood trees, and building bio-retention basins (or “rain gardens” to capture rainfall and help it infiltrate into groundwater aquifers where it will feed the river and recharge the city’s wells. SFWA is now working to expand its stewardship efforts to embrace the more than 80 miles of arroyos in the Santa Fe Watershed with a new Adopt-an-Arroyo program.


Through its education programs, SFWA teaches and inspires future environmental stewards. SFWA’s My Water, My Watershed classes give hundreds of elementary and middle school students the opportunity to hike into the upper watershed, learn about forest ecology, and discover where the water in their faucets comes from. For many of these students, this is their first hike into the woods and their only field trip of the school year.


SFWA also organizes adult classes, forums, hikes and van trips into the protected upper watershed to help connect Santa Feans with their river. SFWA’s Climate Masters program teaches Santa Feans how to adapt to climate change and reduce their carbon and water footprints.


As they pick up trash, help construct a rain garden, learn from their children about the source of our drinking water, or attend a City Council meeting to testify for a living river, Santa Fe Watershed members and volunteers are touched, inspired and drawn into the movement to build a healthy, functioning watershed that will sustain our community long into the future.


Kristina G. Fisher is president of the Board of the Santa Fe Watershed Association. In 2015, the SFWA was honored with the Courageous Innovation Piñón Award from the Santa Fe Community Foundation.




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