SFIP, the Santa Fe Watershed Association, Regenesis Group, and Story of Place Institute have launched a Water Resources Initiative, designed to encourage sustainable practices in Santa Fe. As a first step, we will convene an invitational workshop to address critical issues in sustainable water use, behaviors, policies, management, and planning. The workshop’s main objective is to use Santa Fe as a “laboratory of the imagination,” by developing a case study and a test bed for solutions that can be exported and adapted to other communities worldwide.

The workshop is envisioned as the first in an ongoing annual series of events. It will also include a number of adjunct elements (such as community engagement and input, public outreach events, and themed exhibitions), and will lead to tangible projects and programs with measurable impact in the community.

The Challenge

The “grand challenge” we seek to address can be summarized as follows:

  • There is a finite amount of fresh water in the world.
  • There is already water stress in many areas, and a great many people living without adequate access or supply.
  • Climate change, glacier loss, population growth, and industrialization will exacerbate the problem.
  • In sum: we are hurtling toward a potentially grave situation, locally, nationally, and globally.

Many broad-scale policy and technical solutions have been proposed, and many water workshops, symposia, and conferences take place every year. Our workshop will target a distinctive niche, where we can add measurable value and have tangible impact.

Our Niche

The workshop’s distinctive niche lies at the intersection of three concepts:

Whole Systems/Trans-Sector describes the approach to understanding the problem and generating new ideas and solutions.

Climate Change in Arid Regions is the specific challenge we will address. Many of the ideas and principles we use will be applicable to non-arid regions, but our primary focus will lie here.

Community-Scale Watersheds are the primary subject of our work, defining the types of physical and social contexts on which our solutions will be based, and to which they will be most applicable.

Our Approach

The over-arching workshop theme will be:

Climate Change Impacts on Our Water:

Meeting the Challenge through Community Attitudes, Actions, and Adaptations

The overall approach acknowledges that drought and climate change conditions may very likely be leading us to a grave situation, but emphasizes that by acting now, we can craft wise paradigms, practices, and policies in a calm, well-informed, and imaginative fashion, and put them into effect. We will use a four-point method to frame and structure the workshop, designed to foster wholly new ideas and maximize their impact:

We will bring together multiple disciplines, in a collaborative framework, including diverse stakeholder engagement.

We will approach the work as a systemic challenge, with many vectors, elements, and perspectives.

We will design, prototype, and test community-based ideas and solutions, through the workshop process, and through ongoing deployment.

We will diffuse successful solutions to other communities as widely as possible.

Workshop Goals

Our primary goal is to catalyze a shift in the way community members, including their decision makers, think about, value, and use water, toward a fully sustainable basis:

Think: Catalyze a shift community members’ attitudes, and decision makers’ ways of doing resource planning and making policy

Use: Catalyze the community to develop and adopt new ways of caring and acting

Value: Catalyze a deep inquiry into the “purpose” of conservation:

  • How do we ensure adequate water to do what we need to do (viability), and to do what we love to do (values)?
  • How does this map to community values, priorities, and planning?

Framing & Process

The workshop will ask the question: What would it be like if we took a whole systems-level approach to water planning, use, and thinking in Santa Fe? What would change?

And to begin to answer that question, the workshop participants will spend much of their time actually doing whole systems-level thinking about the resource: developing ideas, prototyping solutions in an imaginative framework, and simulating their effects and outcomes. In effect, we’ll create a “laboratory of the imagination” for this experiment, and a method that can be shared with any other community.