Category Archives: Teamwork

Adaptive Actions with Tijeras Creek


Tijeras Creek during a dry season. The remediation project is uphill on the left.

Upper Tijeras Creek during a dry season. The project site is up to the left.

When I first visited the Tijeras Creek Remediation Project two years ago, it was to explore large-scale earthworks: a system of basins, swales, berms and spillways.  I discovered that much more is occurring there.  The project returns natural processes to the upper creek’s floodplain and expands watershed awareness and resiliency know-how.

Before: Degraded Environment

Following the expansion of A. Montoya Elementary School, stormwater from the parking lot and rooftops flowed through culverts that dumped onto the stream bank.  But when it rains just two-tenths (.2) inch, over 300,000 gallons flows into the area.  The intensity of the water carved out gullies, carrying pollutants from the parking lots.  As water rushed through the gullies, it carried loads of soil into the creek.  Some people used the area as a dumping ground. Thus:

  • Water pollution
  • Groundwater depletion
  • Invasive plants
  • Loss of bio-diversity
  • Degraded public space.

Ongoing: Resiliency

The opportunity to develop solutions that mimic nature was something that Jim Brooks couldn’t resist.  Jim has offered volunteers a variety of skill-building activities using permaculture principles.  As Jim describes it, “We’re treating the water with respect when it falls into the site.” The teams practice a variety of adaptive actions, revealing soil as a living thing.  It’s a long-term process that includes new basin and spillway installations this year.  


  • Water Harvesting with earthworks
  • Groundwater supports floodplain.
  • Clean stormwater enters creek.
  • Water is stored in living systems.
  • The plant /soil / food web expands.

The earthworks and soil techniques are applicable in many places where development and nature meet, and volunteers are inspired to practice them in their own places.

Work Parties Dig It

Querencia Green is coordinating work parties with volunteers for the spring and summer.  We’ll start on Sunday, March 20 with Albuquerque Involved volunteers and anyone who wants to participate (wear suitable work clothes).  Tools are provided but you can bring your own. The project site at 24 Public School Road is only eight miles from Albuquerque’s eastern boundary.

We’re also sponsoring field trips with high school classes to increase outdoor experiential learning! Teachers can contact Joanne via the Contact page.

More news about the spring events appear on Facebook Tijeras Creek Remediation Project.  

During 2015 and 2016, project support is provided by the PNM Foundation, and field trips with Highland High School are supported by Albuquerque Involved.  Thanks to all who are part of the resilient solutions!

Environmental Education in Place

Many school campuses have portable buildings, eroded soils, and bare landscape areas.  At the School on Wheels High School in the South Valley, our Places We Live team saw an opportunity for a small earthworks project.

During rainstorms, a downspout on a portable building flowed next to the building and the water collected and evaporated in a low area.  A bio-retention basin could protect the building, improve soil, increase infiltration and nurture new plants.

School on Wheels

Terry Dunbar on site before installation

Joanne McEntire of Querencia Green joined Science Teacher Terry Dunbar at School on Wheels and the Environmental Education Association of New Mexico (EEANM) to install the water harvesting project during the workshop series Places We Live.

The series began with an educators’ workshop to provide the place-based environmental education curriculum from Project Learning Tree.  The South Valley MainStreet board chair, James Aranda, provided a cultural overview of the  neighborhood, which created a greater “sense of place” for the group. Barbara Garrity of EEANM and McEntire explored the Places We Live curriculum.

To focus on issues of water and the important values of trees, McEntire provided activity materials and reviewed key components of rainwater harvesting.  To prepare for the earthworks installation, she designed the basin and arranged for the needed installation materials, and a few science students put in some preliminary time on the site.

Photo: Cass Landrum

Photo: Cass Landrum

A multi-age crew of students from Jimmy Carter Middle School and School on Wheels, plus educators and crew chiefs, made the installation workshop an energetic success!  We built a ‘splash basin’ under the downspout, dug a larger, shallow basin for the runoff, lined the sides with rocks, made “sponges” in the bottom of the basin to catalyze microbial activity, and covered the bottom with woody mulch.

Splash basin under downspout

Splash basin under downspout


The crew planted a Desert Willow tree and Autumn Sage on the edges of the basin, which will expand the native plant diversity at the school.

Teacher Terry Dunbar enjoyed the following day with his participating students: “When our crew members came in this morning, they grabbed their friends and took them out to the site to show off their work.  They’re proud of what they accomplished.”

MS students sage plant C

Planting a Sage on basin edge

Future possibilities for students in the expanded outdoor learning environment include observing microbes in the soil sponges, comparing it to the native soil, supplementary watering in the first dry season, and adaptive actions that repair or improve the site.  The other educators who joined the team hope to create water harvesting projects at their schools or homes.

This team project was made possible by the Albuquerque Community Foundation.  Crew

September Work Party at Tijeras Creek

Learn about the improvements on the stream bank and ideas for future expansion.

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Tijeras Creek Remediation Project
DATE & TIME: Sunday, September 13, 9 am – 1 pm
LOCATION: 24 Public School Rd., Tijeras  (map below)

 Crews will work on these items (dependent on soil moisture conditions):

  • Ground preparation and seeding
  • Remove invasive plants
  • Repair and construct rock spillways to slow stormwater.
  • Soil sponges.

Over the past several years, James Brooks has been working with his design and installation team, experts in herbicide application, and volunteers to build a system of basins, swales and berms that improve Tijeras Creek’s water quality and solves stormwater management problems.

Upcoming work parties will provide hands-on experience with stormwater harvesting and green infrastructure, the suppression of invasive plant species, habitat restoration, and improvements in soil health and stabilization.

Schedule: We will start at 9:00 am at the parking lot with an orientation.

Supplies: Bring sunscreen, your full water bottle and work gloves.   Soilutions / Adaptive Terrain Systems will provide necessary tools. If you have tools, bring for your use.

Work Requirements:  Streambank remediation is a moderately strenuous activity.  Please wear pants, long-sleeve shirt, hat and work boots.

We need to get a head count in advance!  Answer the Poll below or visit Facebook Tijeras Creek and look for this event.  Questions?

Facilities:  Portable toilet facility is on site.

Hosted by Soilutions / Adaptive Terrain System with Querencia Green.

Financial support provided by PNM Foundation.

Site map 2 MY

Work Parties Move Earth for Water

Volunteer and come to a work party at community sites on Sunday, May 3.

Together with Soilution’s Adaptive Terrain Systems and East Central Ministries, Querencia Green is hosting a field trip for participants in the national River Rally.   Visitors will stop at La Mesa Neighborhood Garden Park and the Tijeras Creek Restoration site, two community-driven, outdoor spaces that are associated with Tijeras Creek, a major tributary of the middle Rio Grande.  Some of the visitors have never been in New Mexico, and we want to share some urban and rural experiences “up the watershed.”

Join the site managers at one of the sites to move mulch, improve the water catchment basins’ soil health and meet more water harvesting / soil health champions.  Experience rainwater harvesting and essential maintenance tasks after April’s wonderful showers!

La Mesa Neighborhood Garden Park                2 – 4 pm

406 Espanola St. NE, Albuquerque  – NW corner of Espanola and Copper; park on the street.

Enjoy an hour or two with John Bulten of East Central Ministries, team partners, and neighbors who are creating the Garden Park.  Water harvesting basins that were planted last year with trees and shrubs need maintenance.  Fluff the soil, move wood mulch, and improve soil and water systems!

Tijeras Creek Restoration Site                  8am – 5pm

24 Public School Road, Tijeras – just south of the I-40 exit for Tijeras, past the stoplight.

Join Jim Brooks of Soilutions / Adaptive Terrain Systems and community volunteers to maintain stormwater catchment basins, berms & swales, explore soil sponges, and weed out invasive plants!  Park in the school parking lot and look to the stream bank.

Bring your water bottle, hat, work gloves, and wear work clothes; also raking or weeding tools if you have them.

Inspiration on PBS KNME in January 2015

Water Blues Logo

New Mexico’s PBS station KNME will broadcast the documentary film WATER BLUES GREEN SOLUTIONS in January 2015.  The film presents US cities that are using stormwater to generate resilient landscapes in public parks, school yards and along streets.  Local Green Infrastructure supporters and designers made a request with Querencia Green to KNME to air the program – and KNME scheduled it on two stations.

  • Mon. Jan. 12          10:00 pm        KNME 5.1
  • Wed. Jan. 14           5:00 am         KNME 5.1
  • Sun. Jan. 25            9:00 pm         KNMD 9.1

The stories about urban water are from Philadelphia PA, Portland OR, The Bronx of  NYC and San Antonio TX (with its thorough water conservation and re-use strategy).  Neighbors and youth are involved in some of the featured projects, generating ecological know-how and job skills.

In addition to the video, WATER BLUES GREEN SOLUTIONS offers a website with tools for activating green solutions for flooding, pollution, and scarcity. It includes K-12 and higher education learning modules that could be adapted for arid places.  The video can be purchased on DVD.

“This initiative is designed to promote public education and awareness of “green infrastructure” and how natural processes can interface with and complement existing gray or manmade infrastructure. The ultimate project goal is an informed citizenry that is empowered to participate in the development of place specific strategies for addressing water issues.”   Penn State Media

Community work

Earthworks installation, Penn State Media

Many  green infrastructure techniques that work in wet climates have been adapted to suit the Southwest’s arid places; numerous New Mexicans are testing and implementing them.  A few of our community places highlight water harvesting, soil building strategies and native plants that support pollinators and other wildlife.  Expertise is growing as open courses for practitioners are offered.

Local government agencies have started to change the rules about stormwater to encourage rainwater harvesting with beneficial uses.  There are several wonderful environmental education programs that guide young people to care for the Rio Grande watershed.

More inspiration is advisable.  Watch WATER BLUES GREEN SOLUTIONS.

News: Water Harvesting Workshop, Garden Park Views

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The monsoon in central New Mexico has been delightful, frustrating, spotty and intense – we know what “variable” means!  Climate change is leading to more variability in precipitation while average monthly temperatures are on the rise.  We protect and enhance our places when we slow the flow of stormwater and efficiently use it for outdoor spaces.   With the potential El Niño next winter, there could be too much of a good thing!  Fortunately, householders are re-thinking and re-designing gardens and yards, and local classes and community projects are materializing.

Summer Class  – Intro to Water Harvesting and Green Infrastructure

Jeff Adams of terrasophia, LLC is providing an Introduction to Water Harvesting and Green Infrastructure workshop on August 23.  The final in a series of three workshops, Jeff covers a lot of territory about earthworks and catchment tanks, design and installation principles.  Slow it, spread it, sink it!

Jeff will be the lead instructor for the Rainwater Harvesting and Green Infrastructure certification course with the Watershed Management Group in September (the course is currently full).   He brings a practical and integrated approach to each project as a designer.  Jeff has a depth of experience in water harvesting training programs, including lead instructor for the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association’s (ARCSA) Accredited Professional training.

The Intro class is on Saturday, August 23, 1 – 3:00 pm, at the City’s Open Space Visitor Center, 5400 Coors Blvd. NW.  Register in advance:  

 La Mesa Neighborhood Garden Park Grows

Kyle Carr, producer of the local access TV program, Landscaping Southwest, visited the Garden Park on the first planting day in late Spring.  This video segment jump-starts with John Bulten of East Central Ministries (ECM) and Trey Hammond of La Mesa Presbyterian Church, followed by Joanne McEntire of Querencia Green.

The trees that we planted in the two basins with school children and youth are Desert Willow and Privet (NM Olive).  Shrubs include Utah Serviceberry, Sea Buckthorn, Cherry and Purple Sage, and Red Yucca.  After several weeks of hand watering, the plants are settling in with the monsoon.  Neighborhood youth crews have led the way in mulching, weeding and putting in penstemon and sage,  Everyone is welcome to visit the park at 406 Espanola NE.

A grant proposal for the Garden Park was chosen as a finalist for the August vote by ABQ Involved members.   ABQ Involved works with community groups  and creates short videos for members to view before they vote for their favorite – a fun, online way to support local organizations!





Designing to dig: La Mesa Garden Park

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Our second demonstration project reached an important milestone: Alicia Petersen presented the rainwater harvesting design plans for La Mesa Neighborhood Garden Park to the community partners.

The plan features two basins along the sidewalks to collect stormwater from the site and support native trees and shrubs with edible berries. The Desert Willow and New Mexico Olive are drought tolerant trees, yet they’ll take advantage of occasional flooding. Certain plants are adapted to desert precipitation patterns and the trees that we selected are also favorite natives.

The design plan also features a circular area with fruit trees in a basin that nearly surrounds the space. In time, the circle will create a sense of enclosure and become an inviting space for picnics and neighborly gatherings. A small basin planted with sage and yucca on the primary corner of the site will feature a low wall along the edge.

While developing the plans, team members also met with Jim Brooks of Brooks Terrain Systems. Jim has the local experience and equipment to move earth while thinking of water.

With the team’s acceptance of the design plans, we lost no time in moving some dirt. On a bright day we marked key areas with flags, and Jim set up his Dingo machine and started the grading work.  Two other team members arrived with needed supplies and energy.  Better yet, it wasn’t windy!

The Garden Park team continues to reach out to volunteers in the area. Joel Wooldridge, a team member from La Mesa Presbyterian Church, talked with local residents during their annual neighborhood meeting.  He noted that “Every one of them was thrilled about the project and its prospects for improving the area.”

The team will soon announce work parties to move rocks, plant trees and shrubs, and carry out an efficient watering plan. Students and neighbors will also be involved in creating gardening and art projects, shade structures and seating areas. To receive news about work parties, send a note to Winona at

Greener neighborhoods, especially those with green common areas, can encourage social bonding between neighbors and improve the social setting. Residents that are more attached to their community have higher levels of social cohesion and social control, less fear of crime. (University of Washington, Green Cities: Good Health)