Foot Soldier of the Watershed

Zoe Isaacson

O, that we now had here but one ten thousand of those men in England that do no

work today. —William Shakespeare, Henry V

HAPPILY, ZOE IS VERY MUCH HERE. With laser focus, head down, hammering out the work she was trained to do and loves to do. For all of us. I wish we had a battalion of Zoes.

You guard Santa Fe’s water?

I work with a team for the city of Santa Fe. We are the River and Watershed Section, and our charge is to deal with all projects pertaining to the urban reach of the river and to help manage city-owned arroyos and drainages.

So we make sure that stormwater is conveyed in a safe manner. We come in to help manage storm flows, and when I use the term manage, I mean collect and convey stormwater to its endpoint, most often the Santa Fe River.

And what is the state of the river now?

The river looks better than it has looked in decades.

Many reaches of the river are stable, not degrading. The elevation of the river channel is fairly stable, the banks are pretty stable, and they’re not eroding into the channel. Of course, the Santa Fe River is an urban river, and there is no separating the effects of hundreds of years of occupation within the city; there’s no trying to pretend that the Santa Fe River is a natural system.

What we are trying to do is find that balance, that nuance – understanding how the river has changed through development, through occupation.

“Nuance,” meaning adaptation – that you have to deal with a very different future?

Absolutely, and understanding that it has been forever changed. But what can we do moving forward to help facilitate a more natural system? We are also charged with looking at how much water we have and buffering our portfolio to help sustain our community during really prolonged periods of drought.

What happens during the monsoons?

We keep our eyes on our rivers and arroyos. I deal with a lot of constituents on various issues, like, I have this erosion happening in my backyard, and Whose responsibility is it? So there’s detective work of understanding if that’s a city-owned problem or a landowner problem. We are also working with a lot of campers and homeless who are utilizing the river and arroyos for dwellings; it’s basically where they live.



Photo SFM