August 2016 eNews

New Mexico Water Budget Model Undergoes Refinement


By Joshua Randall, NM WRRI Program Specialist

As part of the Statewide Water Assessment, NM WRRI, Tetra Tech, UNM, and other affiliates have completed the first version of the Dynamic Statewide Water Budget Model (DSWBM) for New Mexico. This is an effort to account for the origin and fate of New Mexico’s water resources through time. Public access to the model will be available in the near future. Users will be able to set the model to run for any time period from January 1975 to December 2010 in monthly increments, and for any of four spatial resolutions: state, water planning region, river basin, and county.

The main goal of the DSWBM is to provide a consolidated account of all of the historical trends and to forecast future trends of New Mexico’s water resources in an easily accessible format. The model is designed to incorporate all water in New Mexico at any given time. This is done through the use of “stocks” and “flows.” Stocks are the given amount of water in one area at a time. Flows are the movement of water between these stocks. Four stocks are used in the model: the land surface (includes moisture in vegetation, etc.), surface water (rivers and streams), human storage (irrigation canals, reservoirs), and groundwater. Because groundwater totals are largely unknown, the model estimates the change for a given time period. There are 16 fluxes that represent the change between these stocks and within the system and change in and out of the system. Ten of these are calculated from outside data, independent of any other flux. Four are closure terms and are calculated as differences between certain stocks and fluxes. The last two are groundwater fluxes, considered to be zero at all levels. Outside data used in the model includes PRISM (PRISM 2014), NM-OSE water use reports (Longworth et al. 2005, Longworth et al. 2010), U.S. Geological Survey gage data and USGS groundwater reports (2015), and data produced from other parts of the Statewide Water Assessment project.

The ability to choose any spatial area for any time period (1975-2010) in a timely manner makes this tool very flexible. It allows for quick comparison to other research as well as providing baseline calculations for water changes in New Mexico. The model will also be openly available for use to anyone.

Moving forward there will be continual improvements made for enhancing the functionality of the online model for the user, including information for each flux and stock as well as improved data visualization options. The project is transitioning into year three and will begin to incorporate scenario projections into the model for future water estimates.

Project collaborators include Jesse Roach (PE, PhD) and Ken Peterson (MS), Tetra Tech Inc.; Bruce Thomson (PhD), UNM; Vince Tidwell (PhD), Sandia National Laboratories, and Joshua Randall (MS), NM WRRI.

Longworth, J. W., Valdez, J. M., Magnuson, M. L., & Richard, K. (2013). New Mexico Water Use by Categories 2010. New Mexico State Engineer.
Longworth, J. W., Valdez, J. M., Magnuson, M. L., Sims, A., Elisa, J., & Keller, J. (2008). New Mexico Water Use by Categories 2005. New Mexico State Engineer.
Prism Climate Group. (2014). Oregon State University. Retrieved from
USGS. (2015). USGS Water Data for USA. Retrieved from

August 2016 eNews

Workshop on Use of Alternative Water Held in Las Cruces

BNGDRF tour Aug 2016
Workshop participants learned about the projects underway at the Brackish National Groundwater Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo from facility manager, Randy Shaw (right).

By Ashley Page, NMSU Graduate Student Assistant

NM WRRI hosted a two-day workshop on August 15-16, 2016 for the New Mexico State University–Bureau of Reclamation collaborative partnership on Research for the Development and Use of Alternative Water Supplies. The project aims to increase knowledge and research expertise regarding alternative water supplies. Researchers and community stakeholders attended the workshop to determine a pertinent path for the partnership.

The first day of the meeting engaged currently funded researchers and potential researchers. New Mexico State University researchers Drs. Pei Xu, Catherine Brewer, and Reza Foudazi presented updates on their funded projects. The collaborative partnership’s technical advisors from the Bureau of Reclamation discussed their research expertise and current work. Additional speakers included Yuliana Porras-Mendoza, Advanced Water Treatment Coordinator from Reclamation; Terry
Lombard, Director of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer from NMSU’s Arrowhead Center; and Dr. Vince Tidwell, Principle Member of the Technical Staff from Sandia National Laboratories.

Community stakeholders interested in brackish groundwater desalination attended the second day of the workshop. Participants shared their needs and concerns related to these technologies. The insight they provided will help the collaborative partnership ensure that its continued work meets the needs of the Mesilla Valley. The workshop concluded with a tour of the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, NM. Randy Shaw, the site’s Facility Manager, led the group in a presentation and walking tour.

August 2016 eNews

Press Release Issued by Lower Rio Grande Water Users on Texas’ Water Lawsuit



Texas’ lawsuit over water deliveries from New Mexico and Colorado, persistent water supply and demand stresses and the desire to sustain the quality of life enjoyed by so many southern New Mexicans, has brought together some unlikely allies who are trying to adopt groundwater management policies to address these challenges. In order to move this effort forward, the New Mexico State Engineer, Mr. Tom Blaine met recently with representatives of the Lower Rio Grande Water Users (the “Water Users”) to discuss ways to implement a plan to better manage water resources and resolve pending disputes over the use of water in the Lower Rio Grande basin. The plan, known as the Settlement Framework, was recently adopted by the Water Users whose members include the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Pecan Growers Association, Southern Rio Grande Diversified Crop Farmers Association, Public Service Company of New Mexico and Camino Real Regional Utility Authority.

Also attending the planning session were representatives of the Water Resource Research Institute (WRRI), which is a state wide consortium for water research, education and outreach based at New Mexico State University.

The Settlement Framework is an agreement amongst users of around 90% of the groundwater in the Lower Rio Grande. The group believes the core elements needed to advance sustainable management of groundwater in the LRG are:

1. Adopt revisions to the 2008 Operating Agreement for the Rio Grande Project in a form acceptable to both the current parties to the Agreement and to the Water Users.

2. Manage groundwater to (1) protect Rio Grande project supplies, (2) protect the rights of senior groundwater users, (3) implement adaptive management techniques for groundwater to assure sustainable and resilient supplies, and (4) establish mechanisms for flexible and rapid changes in the use of water.

3. Establish methods for measuring, managing or offsetting surface or river water depletions not covered by the current Operating Agreement, such as municipal and industrial users like cities, universities, power plants and mutual domestics, where needed.

4. Secure agreement that senior water right holders such as farmers, City of Las Cruces and New Mexico State University not seek priority enforcement against one another.

The Water Users say they are committed to this effort and will continue to meet regularly with the State Engineer to evaluate progress and implement the Settlement Framework.

August 2016 eNews

Student Grant Proposals Due September 12, 2016

wine photo
Michael Wine working in the 2013 Thompson Ridge burn scar in Valles Caldera in June 2016. Following a wildfire many aspects of water cycling—ranging from transpiration to groundwater recharge—are altered indefinitely. Photo by Bob Wine.

By Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

Over the past dozen years, the NM WRRI has received state funding periodically to support the NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant Program. The institute has been fortunate in the past three years to have the support of the New Mexico State Legislature and able to offer the grants to students conducting water-related research throughout the state. Since its inception in 2003, 90 university students in New Mexico at the undergraduate and graduate levels have received awards.

The grants support the training of New Mexico’s future water experts and have been acknowledged as an often critical factor in the ability of students to conduct research and complete their degree programs. Dr. Marv Lutnesky, of Eastern New Mexico University stated: Without this [WRRI Student Research Grants] funding, neither [of my two graduate] students would have been able to focus on their studies [and earn] a Master of Science degree. Dr. Laura Crossey of the University of New Mexico commented: All three [of my] students benefitted from writing the proposal, being responsible for the award budget and implementing the work, and writing the reports upon completion. Being highlighted in the newsletter was another facet of the process – and I feel that the opportunity also highlighted my own research program to other institutions and individuals within New Mexico. New Mexico Tech Professor Emeritus John Wilson indicated: [WRRI] Student Water Research Awards play a significant role in the career development of graduate student hydrologists at NM Tech . . . Almost inevitably my students . . . that received this support leveraged it to develop federally sponsored research projects with a financial value fifty times larger than their . . . award, and used their findings to address problems of state, regional and national importance. As a catalyst these awards provide more dollar for dollar value than any other grants our students get.

A 2014 student grant recipient, Michael Wine of New Mexico Tech, has just published a paper with his former student grant advisor, Dr. Dan Cadol, entitled: “Hydrologic effects of large southwestern USA wildfires significantly increase regional water supply: fact or fiction?” in Environmental Research Letters (18 August 2016). Now a PhD student slated to graduate in 2017, Michael recently talked about the importance of the student grant he received: ”Receipt of an NM WRRI student grant provided a unique opportunity to procure state-of-the-art hydrologic modeling software and computational hardware. In this way the NM WRRI grant jump started our modeling progress at NM Tech and creates new knowledge and trains water resources professionals with state-of-the-art expertise specific to our state. As our climate changes, large changes in our water cycle have already occurred. NM WRRI grants, especially student grants, are singularly well-positioned to improve our understanding of future water availability in New Mexico.”

Students and faculty advisors can click here to get more information and proposal guidelines for the 2017 NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant Program.

August 2016 eNews

NM WRRI Welcomes Water Policy Analyst Post-Doc

NM WRRI Welcomes Water Policy Analyst Post-Doc, María Milanés-MurciaBy Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

María Milanés-Murcia, a native of Madrid, Spain recently joined the NM WRRI. She is currently working on several institute initiatives including the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (a federally funded project that is characterizing aquifers along the US-Mexico border) and the New Mexico Statewide Water Assessment (a state funded project that will provide water budget components for the entire state such as evapotranspiration, crop consumptive use, groundwater recharge, and streamflow).

María is also working on identifying water banking policies that could potentially be implemented in New Mexico. She will analyze current water law in order to develop potential water polices that could be implemented at the local level while protecting the interests of individual stakeholders. María will also study the development of conjunctive management policies for surface water and groundwater use in New Mexico. Such policies try to take into account the natural hydrologic connection between surface and groundwater. She will focus on a conjunctive management approach through water banking and water markets that allows for flexibility of water use while enabling an accurate and adequate water-right transfer process.

María is familiar with New Mexico having received a master’s degree in economics with a focus on environmental economics from NMSU. She also holds LLM and JSD degrees in international water resource law with an emphasis on irrigation management, water markets, climate change, and mitigation policies from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, California. She also has an LLB from the University of Murcia, Spain. She has provided legal advice to governments, intergovernmental organizations, and NGOs for over ten years. Her research has focused on transboundary rivers, wetlands, land, water, fisheries, plants, animals, food, forestry, wildlife, national parks, climate change, international water issues, environment, and biodiversity. Having worked in North and South Sudan, Uruguay, Costa Rica, and the Middle East, María has vast international experience.

When asked about what she would like to accomplish while at NM WRRI, María responded, “I would like to contribute to the future of New Mexico through my research, which I hope will lead to the development of policies that can be implemented to help improve people’s lives throughout the state.”