Soon after development of the Watershed Management Plan, the City and its partner organizations have been engaged in building awareness of the project among the public. The Education and Outreach component of the Watershed Management Plan included specific recommendations for assessing public awareness of and building support for critical water source protection work in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed.

The Santa Fe Municipal Watershed has been closed to the public since 1923, and little was known about the attitudes of Santa Fe water users toward watershed management or concepts related to Payment for Ecosystem Services. The Education and Outreach plan calls for gathering information about community perspectives toward watershed management while simultaneously providing education to residents of the City and County of Santa Fe, water customers of Sangre de Cristo Water Division, and Santa Fe youth.

Education and outreach will help water consumers understand the threats to Santa Fe’s water supply and demonstrate that proactive watershed protection not only costs significantly less than mitigating impacts to the watershed from a catastrophic fire, but also doesn't risk the long-term loss of our water source after such a fire. Outreach will also address issues and concerns related to fire in the watershed, including concerns about smoke associated with prescribed fire. Outreach will be provided and shared by and among all cooperating agencies including the City of Santa Fe Fire Department, Sangre de Cristo Water Division, the Española Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest, and the Santa Fe Watershed Association.

Education and Outreach Recommendations:

This plan focuses on residents of the City and County of Santa Fe, water customers of Sangre de Cristo Water Division, and Santa Fe youth with a focus on two areas:

  • Providing general watershed education, including forest and riparian ecology, natural and cultural history, and water issues, and
  • Building support for the Payment for Ecosystem Services model.

Water Education - General Public

  • Offer 5 educational hikes per year within the Santa Fe watershed for members of the public
  • Provide self-guiding interpretive brochure for the Black Canyon nature trail, which overlooks the watershed
  • Develop a 20 minute video tour to virtually experience the watershed as well as a 5 minute YouTube video
  • Host a website about watershed management plans and activities
  • Develop a brochure in Spanish and English to be distributed at community events and with water bills

Watershed Education – Youth

  • Conduct 5th grade public school classroom watershed educational visits
  • Lead half of all Santa Fe 5th grade public school classes into the watershed on an educational tour and conduct an environmental monitoring curriculum along the Santa Fe River
  • Involve middle and high school students in watershed monitoring

Support for Watershed Management and Payment for Ecosystem Services

  • Gather information about residents' knowledge and attitudes about the watershed and PES through a random survey of water users. (See below for more information and to download the full report.)
  • Provide and staff an information table at community events
  • Write articles in a variety of existing organizational newsletters
  • Develop public service announcements
  • Develop 30 second television spots for distribution on a variety of cable networks
  • Provide an information on the community pages of the phone book

Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) Survey Results

For the purposes of informing the public about ongoing watershed work and the importance of protecting their water supply, as well as assess and organize community support for the project and the Water Source Protection Fund, the Watershed Management Plan calls for surveying city residents. As part of this effort, the Nature Conservancy hired a public opinion research firm, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3), to conduct the opinion research. The consultant held two focus group meetings with paid volunteers and then, with Water Division and USFS input, finalized the telephone survey which was conducted in mid-March, 2011. As part of the survey, the consultant interviewed 402 Santa Fe voters, about 10 minutes each. The information we’ve gained from the survey will be used to tailor public messaging about the project and its objectives, and also offers insights about the public’s awareness of City water supply issues, the USFS and smoke impact from forest maintenance activities.

The survey found that an overwhelming majority of voters indicate that they would support a Water Source Protection Fund to help fund the protection of Santa Fe’s water supply from the threat of a catastrophic forest fire.Conceptual support for the proposal is broad, cutting across all major demographic and geographic subgroups of Santa Fe voters. Support for the proposal likely stems from concerns over the sufficiency of the City’s future water-supply and the high levels of confidence that voters voice in the City’s Water Division.

Bold Endeavor: Education & Outreach for the Santa Fe Upper Watershed

The Santa Fe Watershed Association signed a three year contract with the City of Santa Fe to implement the education and outreach portion of the Upper Watershed Management Plan. This 20-year plan was jointly written with the USFS (Santa Fe National Forest, Española Ranger District), the City of Santa Fe, and The Nature Conservancy. The project was initially funded through a CFRP grant administered by the SFWA in 2007. The City has since been awarded $1.3 million in grant funding from the New Mexico Finance Authority to implement the first three years of the plan. Now that the plan is in place, the education and outreach component is filling our days! There are several components to this program:

My Water, My Watershed

Imagine an entire day outdoors with a group of 10 year olds! This program is available to 4th and 5th graders of Santa Fe Public Schools and focuses on connecting kids with all things water. Integrating aspects of required science curriculum, the students first participate in a one hour pre-field trip orientation visit to learn some basics about where our water comes from. On a full day field trip, the students are taken into the forested municipal watershed (closed to the general public), where they collect and identify aquatic insects,explore a real beaver lodge and dam, and look for the tracks of forest inhabitants like bears, turkeys and deer. Students learn how reservoirs work, how the water is piped to the treatment plant and then to their homes, and how all of this occurs within a watershed. Up to 500 students will go through this program each school year.

Santa Fe Blue Pages

Last year one of our SFWA members introduced us to The Orleans Blue Pages, an incredibly thorough guide to the care and feeding of a watershed. Orleans is on Cape Cod, but the model for this wonderfully accessible book is what we’re using to customize our own Santa Fe Blue Pages (SFBP). A 48 page colorful guide, the SFBP will cover a plethora of topics, including: The connection between our watershed and our bodies, where our water comes from and what’s in it; how to care for the most precious and the most fundamental element of life: Water. What we do with water says a lot about us, and we hope this book will help us make better decisions, especially in this particular year of drought.

Protecting Santa Fe's Water Source video

The SFWA is working with videographer Sean Cridland to produce a 20 minute documentary style production on the topic of protecting our water source. The video will be used to help our community understand the importance of prescribed fire as a mechanism to ensure a healthy forest environment and prevent a catastrophic blaze like the Pacheco and Las Conchas fires currently burning around the Santa Fe Watershed. Local experts in the film include Sandy Hurlocker and Bill Armstrong with the USFS, and Dale Lyons and Claudia Borchert with the City of Santa Fe. Link to Protecting Santa Fe's Water Source video.

Watershed monitoring

Beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, local middle schoolers will begin collecting watershed monitoring data using the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program, or BEMP for short. Students willstudy both living and non-living qualities such as precipitation, air and soil temperatures, native plant and exotic plant productivity, surface-active arthropod activity, vegetation cover, and woody debris/fuel loading.

Santa Fe Municipal Watershed Hikes

Each summer, the Santa Fe Watershed Association leads guided hikes into the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed, an area that has been closed to the public since 1932. Each hike lasts five hours and covers 2.5 miles, during which a variety of topics is covered, including the history of Santa Fe’s drinking water supply; how the reservoir systems work; forest thinning and healthy forest ecology; the role beavers play in creating a healthy water supply; and other interesting and lesser known trivia of your water supply! You’ll want to sign up early as we’re limited to 20 participants and they do fill up fast. Call our office at 505-820-1696 to register.

Trail Guides

Two new interpretive brochures have been created under this program, one for The Nature Conservancy’s Canyon Preserve, and one for the Black Canyon Trail on Hyde Park Road. Both of the brochures offer illuminating highlights of the areas they describe for those who are interested in a self-guided tour. They can be downloaded from our website at: