Editor’s note: This is the first in a series to run over several consecutive Fridays. It is written by members of the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance, which seeks to foster land stewardship in the Gallinas, Sapello and Tecolote watersheds.
Water connects us all. It moves through the earth and our atmosphere in the water cycle, passing through many of us along the way.
We are only one of the beneficiaries of this amazing substance. Almost everything we do and use and everything on this planet has or did have water as part of it.
Without water, life as we know it would stop!
Our water supply in Las Vegas is in trouble. It will take all of us working together to develop and implement creative and positive solutions to ensure that the residents of Las Vegas and surrounding communities have a reliable, safe source of water into the future. This requires that we first understand and then address the many different parts that affect our water supply, including its origin, its capture and storage, its treatment, and its use. All are important parts of our water supply puzzle.
This series starts at the origin. Where does our water come from? What is its path to us and what affects it along the way?
Water comes to Las Vegas through our watershed, the Gallinas Watershed. If our watershed is healthy, our water supply will be healthy, directly affecting the health of our community.
In this series, we’ll explore the land, the people who live on the land, the water, the condition of our watershed, and the threats and opportunities before us. We’ll also introduce a vision for our watershed that will help us to be a healthier, happier and more sustainable community, even in these times of uncertain climactic forecast.
More than 90 percent of the water that we use in Las Vegas comes directly from the Gallinas River. And the water in this river comes from the Gallinas Watershed.
A watershed is all the land, from the ridge tops to the valley bottoms, that collects and drains water to a particular point, like the Gallinas River. It’s the rocks, soil, forests, meadows and bosque, along with rangeland, farmland, residential areas and the city of Las Vegas. It includes the plants, wildlife, and humans — all interrelated and dependent on the watershed for their sustenance.
Rain or snow falling in the mountains ends up coming out our faucets. Acequias, pipelines, reservoirs, and treatment facilities in our town are all key parts of how that water gets to us and how we know it’s safe to drink. However, those components actually come into play toward the end of the water’s journey into our lives; our watershed is at the beginning.
We take many resources from our watershed — water for our homes and gardens, firewood, grass for our horses and cattle, elk and piñon for our food. Those natural resources depend on the vitality of our watershed and dictate the wellbeing of our families and communities.
How do we take what we need without undermining the health of the land which supports us? The answer lies in finding a balance; recognizing that all parts of the watershed are vital to the wellbeing of our whole community. It’s not about solving one problem while ignoring others. To achieve and maintain a balance, we need to understand all the parts and how they interconnect.
A healthy watershed has the greatest chance of providing a reliable water supply. However, hundreds of years taking from the land without always replacing the resources in our watershed has left it deteriorated. The forests, meadows, valley bottoms and rivers have all been compromised at our hands. This has negatively affected our current water supply.
The solutions to the problems affecting the condition of our watershed are many, and start with our understanding of the puzzle pieces. The solutions then extend to how our actions affect those pieces and what we might change in response. How we care for and appreciate this precious resource will determine the future of our water supply.
The Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance has been wrestling with the challenge of keeping water coming out of our watershed as cool, clean and abundant as possible. We have been developing balanced strategies and solutions to some of our watershed problems and we offer a conduit for your involvement.
This is a challenge that demands that our community work together, in the spirit of cooperation toward a common goal. Each of us plays a part.
Hopefully, this series will deepen our understanding and help point each of us in the direction of what part we’ll play in this critical issue.
Next week: The impact that land use has on the watershed.
The Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance may be reached by visiting its website at hermitspeakwatersheds.org or by calling 505-425-5514.