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Watershed dynamics

—Lynn Montgomery, Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District

All of us are very familiar with the watersheds we occupy. After all, we are sitting, lying, or standing on a watershed all the time. If one set out at sea or was an astronaut orbiting the Earth, one wouldn’t, but if we are on the land surface of the planet, we are on and part of a watershed. Watersheds have several basic attributes: soil, surface, surface water courses, groundwater, vegetation, wildlife habitat, and human aspects. The weather and climate shape them in natural ways, and we alter them constantly to benefit ourselves. Our watersheds are constantly in motion and flux. We, as humans, can shape and influence watersheds in profound ways. Perhaps it’s time to delve into them and see where we are benefitting ourselves and the environment and when we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District is drafting a land and water use plan and will concentrate on Las Huertas Watershed to start. It is hoped that residents will see the importance of their watershed and take the lead in restoration and improvements. The first step is to evaluate needs and what we can do to meet them. Residents can get involved by helping to define needs, directions, and even solutions. Coronado’s role is to assist in this process, refine evaluations, find resources and grants to make it all happen, and to bring in partners such as the BLM, Forest Service, and local governments. The planning process is essential so that we all know what we have and what we can do to maintain it.

Why be so concerned? After all, we have been doing just fine to this point, save for some serious local flooding. In reality, we are “eating” our watersheds, their condition, and ability to support us.

Biological

Vegetation is extremely important. It provides sustenance and shelter to our wildlife. It prevents the soil from eroding, which promotes recharge to our aquifers, keeps sediment from polluting our surface waters, and sequesters carbon in the soil. Grasses are now touted to save our world from global heating by taking in and storing excess carbon to the point we can return to pre-industrial levels if we practice proper methods.

Although wildlife can’t feed us, the benefits to residents, who can enjoy the animals, birds, and insects, are immense.

Soil

The soils are essential. They provide a place for vegetation to thrive and are a vector towards groundwater recharge. As mentioned, they can store amazing amounts of atmospheric carbon, which is dependent on the trillions of its residents, the microbiology that is so unknown to most of us. These tiny critters conduct all the exchanges of minerals and nutrients necessary for plants to thrive and are key to any good restoration. Concentrating on them is essential. Soils without cover are like a serious wound without a dressing. If not properly covered and stabilized, our soils end up dead and headed for Elephant Butte Reservoir.

Water

We don’t get much surface water these days. Lately, Las Huertas Creek has become Las Huertas Arroyo, with only floods providing any flows. When we do get precipitation, it is most commonly extreme, which causes flooding, erosion, pollution, and our water rushes down to the Rio Grande. Much can be done here to prevent losses. Our best opportunity is preserving these runoffs by enhancing recharge. Let’s keep our water here. Providing ground cover is essential to this. Our aquifers are being mined overall. If they become impaired, our only source of potable fresh water will be too.

Wells are starting to fail to produce in some areas of Placitas. Dropping groundwater levels means lower quality. As we pump away, we don’t pay any attention. It’s time to spend resources on keeping us more secure. Coronado SWCD stands ready to help. Please consider joining efforts to restore and improve our lands and waters.

 
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