Santolina, a planned 38,000-home mega-development on the outskirts of Albuquerque, has got local residents deeply concerned that it will suck up desperately needed water amid warnings of a future megadrought
The southwestern US state of New Mexico is anything but crowded. Spread across an area larger than the United Kingdom, this desolate state has a population of just two million. A quarter of that is concentrated in its largest city, Albuquerque – a small metropolis dwarfed by its vast desert surroundings.
It is a scenic yet drought-ridden land of tans and ochres, interrupted only by the occasional drab green cactus or sagebrush. Even the Rio Grande, which courses through the city, is brown.
The banks alongside the river paint another picture, however. A lush ribbon of green runs from the north of the city through Albuquerque’s South Valley, where generations of farmers have been irrigating small parcels of land in much the same way as their Spanish ancestors hundreds of years before them, coaxing life out of the arid desert soil. Compared to the city or the drylands around it, this semi-rural slice of Albuquerque can feel a world unto itself, dotted with small ranches and family farms.
Lorenzo Candelaria, 69, has lived in the South Valley all his life, working a four-acre plot of land he says has been in the family since the late 1600s. On his farm, the sound of chickens clucking and dogs barking mixes with the hum of lawnmowers from a nearby suburb and the roar of an aeroplane overhead. […]