Five things about Water and the Santa Fe Ranch

by Dean Fish

The Santa Fe Ranch has a long history with water. Because the Santa Cruz River passes through the heart of the ranch, we are intricately tied to water and natural resources. In fact, when we hosted the University of Arizona Archaeological Field School, they discovered evidence of local agriculture from over 1,000 years ago! Water is the lifeblood of civilization, especially in the arid Southwest. Here are five things you may or may not know about water and what we do at the Santa Fe Ranch.

One: Water harvesting has been in place for decades on the Santa Fe Ranch. Using natural land contours, we capture runoff and store excess water in “dirt tanks” or “waterholes”. This water is then provided to wildlife and livestock in the area. In fact, these can be the only source of wildlife water during the especially dry times of year.

Two: Irrigation efficiency is a key component of our planning. We irrigate a small portion of the ranch. The irrigation system was revamped to increase water savings through converting from open ditch irrigation to closed underground pipe. This has been done through cost-sharing with the Natural Resources Conservation Service programs and their irrigation engineers. This summer, we are planning an in-depth update to our farm conservation plan to identify additional potential water savings.

Three: Erosion control is an important project that has been in place for over 40 years on the Santa Fe Ranch. Beginning with ensuring adequate ground cover, we strive to keep soil in place and increase water infiltration. We also use natural rock structures and other features to prevent runoff and capture water on the land. We continue to learn from the past and incorporate the newest research into erosion control.

Four: Wildlife water is provided throughout the ranch during the entire year. Regardless of whether livestock are in a pasture, water is provided for deer, javelina, rabbits, birds and other wildlife. We use solar energy to provide power for one of these wells and will continue to see if we can become more sustainable in this area.

Five: Water conservation education is a key component of our educational program. We have conducted the Nogales Water Festival for several years, in cooperation with the University of Arizona Project WET, the Santa Cruz NRCD, the Santa Cruz County School Superintendents Office, The City of Nogales and Nogales High School. All 4th graders in the county are invited to participate in this hands-on water conservation program. The sessions are led by the Science Club students at Nogales High. Last year, we reached nearly 300 students with the program.

As you can see, we are serious about protecting and educating about our most precious natural resource, water. If you have any questions about these practices, or would like to volunteer to help in an area, call or email Dean.

Check out this video from last year’s Water Festival!