By Susan Montoya BryanAssociated Press WriterZIA PUEBLO, N.M. - After years of drought and livestock grazing, a spring sacred to an Native American tribe in north-central New Mexico has dried up, and now the concern is that erosion, climate change and the region's growing demand for water will keep the spring from recovering.
So Zia Pueblo, a restoration ecologist and a team of volunteers are doing some heavy lifting to get the spring flowing again.
They began working Saturday morning under cloudy skies and spitting rain - something the area hasn't seen much of in a long time.
Tribal administrator Peter Pino, a few of his family members and about two dozen volunteers spent the day building several rock dams above the spring to catch runoff and sediment from the sandstone bluffs and clay hills above. Native grass seeds then were raked in around the rocks.
The structures are designed to spur the growth of vegetation and recharge the soil with moisture instead of allowing it to run off and create deep ruts in the earth.
Steve Vrooman, an ecologist from Santa Fe who directed the volunteers, said the spring could return in a few years depending on the amount of rainfall the area receives.
What's happening on the land south of the pueblo also is happening in other parts of the world as rivers run dry and groundwater supplies begin to dwindle. Alan Hamilton, conservation director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said people - regardless of their cultural differences - need to work together to find solutions.
"I really think we're at a place, a crossroads, a threshold where we have to start living differently and more responsibly," said Hamilton, who helped organize the restoration project at Zia. "We have to figure out a way of being more attentive to things and to be able to respond to things before the trauma becomes insurmountable."