This paper describes the success of an ad hoc citizen group in developing an integrated water resource plan for the Santa Fe River in the high desert of New Mexico. Much of the time the Santa Fe River, which runs through the centre of town, is dry because of impoundments for water supply. Water management responsibilities in the area are divided between eight government agencies. Each agency has its own narrowly perceived agenda for managing that aspect for which it is responsible. It was apparent that a holistic approach to water management was sorely needed. An ad hoc citizen committee was formed without government support (either technical or financial), to attempt to bring some rational planning to the use of existing water resources in the growing community.