The headwaters of the Santa Fe River gather east of the City of Santa Fe in the high country of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The river and its watershed are made up of the main course of the Santa Fe River plus all of the streams, arroyos, and water courses that flow into it. As the river flows through a developed, urban environment, the watershed gathers all of the water that flows from the streets, parking lots, buildings, vacant lots, and all of the front and back yards of the town. The entire watershed covers about 285 square miles. Everything within the area flows to and is a part of, the river system.
For thousands of years, people have visited and lived along the Santa Fe River. The river has provided for wildlife habitat, drinking water, irrigation, recreation, and cultural needs. Historically, its flows have been perennial or nearly perennial. Today, the river channel runs dry for much of a typical year and is prone to damaging and dangerous flash floods. In April of 2007, the Santa Fe River was named America's Most Endangered River by American Rivers, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. In June 2007, the New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance named the Santa Fe River as one of the state's twelve most endangered places.
Santa Fe River Studies
The City has finalized 6 of 7 studies analyzing and summarizing various physical aspects of the water in the Santa Fe River Studies and are meant to assist the community in making water management decisions regarding the timing and magnitude of bypass flows to the Santa Fe River. They cover the following topics:
- Stream Flow
- Storm Flow
- Stream Flow Losses
- Reservoir Storage
- Ecosystem Watershed Yield Analysis
- Fate of Reservoir Releases
Stream Flow Information
Santa Fe River stream flow information from October 2006-September 2009 (WY 2007-2009) is available here. For each of the three gages (‘below Nichols’, ‘above St. Francis’, and ‘Ricardo’) the binders below contain:15-minute and mean daily flow records, a table with Mean Daily Flow, and a stream gage rating curve and table. This data was collected by Watershed West under a contract with the City of Santa Fe. Electronic stream flow data is available by placing a request to the City Water Division via the City Clerk’s office.
- Below Nichols Reservoir Stream Flow graphs for Water Year 2007-2009
- St. Francis Stream Flow graphs and tables for Water Year 2007-2009
- Ricardo Stream Flow graphs and tables for Water Year 2007-2009
The Santa Fe River Watershed
The Santa Fe River which runs for 46 miles from the headwaters near Lake Peak (12,408 feet) to the confluence with the Rio Grande (5,220 feet) is the center point of the Santa Fe River Watershed. The total area of the watershed is 182,400 acres (285 square miles) with the upper watershed comprising approximately 10% of this area. As a tributary to the Rio Grande, the Santa Fe River Watershed falls within the much larger, 116.6 million acres (182,200 square miles) Rio Grande Watershed. The Santa Fe River was the reason humans came to this area several thousand years ago. It flowed freely from its headwaters to the Rio Grande until it was dammed in 1881.