The Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA) Board of Directors has declared July as Arroyo Awareness Month. Our hope is to spread information to the public about all of the benefits our arroyos have for the community.

Arroyos collect stormwater from our watersheds during rainstorms and therefore provide a vital component of the flood control system in southern Sandoval County. In the months of July, August, and September, summer monsoons dot the landscape and pour large amounts of rain on the desert floor in a very short period. During these intense rain events, arroyos can quickly become dangerous places. The message has long been out there that only a few inches of rushing water can knock a person off their feet and only a few more inches can pick up a vehicle and carry it away. It is certain that the message of safety is part of Arroyo Awareness Month. If you are going to be in the arroyos, be aware of the weather and realize that even if it is not raining on you, if it’s raining to the west, the arroyo could fill up and become dangerous. It’s best to get out of the arroyos and not risk it!

But Arroyo Awareness Month is also about heightening the public’s awareness of other functions and benefits of arroyos and that they are not simply for drainage. Natural bottom arroyos are very good at infiltrating stormwater into groundwater. SSCAFCA has studied and measured infiltration in arroyos and it turns out that they can infiltrate 7 to 10% of the annual domestic consumption of communities within SSCAFCA’s jurisdiction. Does that amount solve the water sustainability question for our communities? No. Is it an important piece of the water sustainability puzzle? We believe so.

Arroyos also provide valuable open space that can enhance the quality of life of those living in SSCAFCA’s jurisdiction. These long, linear tracts of land provide excellent recreational opportunities for hiking, biking, or equestrian activities. Flood control facilities can also provide great places to host recreational facilities grass fields. We believe that providing for multi-use functions of flood control facilities stretches the public dollar by incorporating several different functions into one geographic footprint. To facilitate thinking for quality-of-life opportunities, SSCAFCA has developed their quality-of-life master plan to identify these opportunities to have recreational amenities in tandem with flood control facilities.

From flood safety to sustainability to quality-of-life opportunities, the arroyos in southern Sandoval County are tremendous community assets that provide multiple functions. Please join us in celebrating all the marvelous things that arroyos provide for our communities.

For more information about SSCAFCA, visit sscafca.org.

David Gatterman is the SSCAFCA executive engineer.