City of Santa Fe – Pioneering the Next Frontier of Stormwater Management

santa feThe City of Santa Fe won an EPA grant of $150,000 this year, to boost stormwater plans which are in line with “Utility of the Future (UOTF)” ideals, and propel the city onto the forefront of wet weather and Small Municipal Storm Water NPDES permit management. The package includes a guide to developing long-term stormwater plans, technical assistance and an innovative, online toolkit to assist the city in achieving its goals. Despite its relatively small size, the grant has the potential to have far-reaching impact in Santa Fe and other arid-state communities across the West.

Santa Fe, NM is a unique locality to implement this initiative because of the wide fluctuation in its ambient temperature, as well as several other environmental factors. Of the five communities chosen to participate in the EPA program, Santa Fe is the lowest in rainfall at 12 inches per year, but the highest in population--the other pilot cities receive up to four times more rainfall than Santa Fe. Additionally, the prevailing high-desert and mountain scrub ecosystem types prevalent in Santa Fe do little to arrest the flow of stormwater or reduce nutrient loads during intense wet weather events. Santa Fe has already implemented several holistic, watershed-wide practices to address these unique challenges

Prior to the EPA grant, the City of Santa Fe had a robust system of water management initiatives in place to maintain the sustainability of the city’s long-term water resources. Using a more comprehensive small community stormwater plan, the City encourages stakeholders to look beyond the confines of their immediate surroundings. Due to the delicate balance of resources, the city also implemented the Living River Ordinanceh in 2011. Under this directive, the city designates up to 1000 acre/feet of water. dependent on annual runoff projections, to recharge the aquifer, as well as restore the riparian ecosystem. The City has also transitioned to a One- Water approach in its treatment and use of surface water, groundwater, and wastewater effluent reuse. Given this foundation of water management practices, the EPA stormwater grant will play an important role in future goals of the city.

At this time, the City is at the introductory stages of an estimated 12-18 month process. According to administrators of the program, the objectives include developing an asset management plan and creating an economically vibrant stormwater system that provides jobs in the local community. Further, the city hopes to create far-reaching best management practices for stormwater retention and nutrient reduction that can be applied to other communities across the West.

NACWA congratulates the City of Santa Fe for receiving this important grant and looks forward to seeing the UOTF initiatives to come.