eNews November 2021

Meet the Researcher, Greg Torell, Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University

Meet the Researcher, Greg Torell, Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month for Meet the Researcher, we had the opportunity to spotlight Greg Torell, an assistant professor for the Department of Agricultural Economics at New Mexico State University (NMSU) since 2019. Torell is currently teaching Introduction to Regional Economic Development for the Doctorate of Economic Development program, and in the spring semester he will teach an undergraduate course in case studies, an MS  course in production economics, and Microeconomics II for the doctoral students in the Doctorate of Economic Development program. He is mentoring a PhD Water Science and Management student (Chibuzo Chilaka) and an Agricultural Economics MS student (Isaac Appiah). According to Torell, one of his most important roles as an instructor is to “lift up students, give them confidence in their abilities, and help them understand their place in the world.” Due to the collaborative nature of the work within his department, he is able to spend quality time with his students, understand their needs, and become a bigger part of their lives. He feels this is unique to working in such a close-knit department; Torell appreciates the time he is able to dedicate to the needs of his students.

Torell’s main research interests center around different aspects of economics, including rangeland, resource and environment, water, energy, and applied economics. The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) are collaborating on a project titled, SWIM: Securing a Climate Resilient Water Future for Agriculture and Ecosystems Through Innovations in Measurement, Management, and Markets (SWIM). This research effort will focus on creating more advanced and robust data-driven information systems for stakeholders and other decision-makers by improving how information is shared. This will improve the accuracy of water-based judgments, measurements, and evaluations leading to more secure, sustainable surface and groundwater use. Torell is looking forward to being a part of SWIM, and believes the team has developed innovative methods for incorporating stakeholder input into their current modeling efforts. He states that “this has always been a challenge, because it’s difficult to have a replicable method for incorporating stakeholder input.” Still, he is confident the method developed by his team will push this area of science forward. Further information will be provided as the SWIM project matures.

In addition to the NM WRRI project, he is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) climate hub researchers on a USDA Coordinated Agricultural Project focusing on Raramuri Criollo Cattle, and how they fare under climate change conditions in the arid/semi-arid southwest compared to English breeds of cattle. Torell and his team are also investigating cattle supply chains in the telecoupled rangeland-Ogallala aquifer system, and how cattle genetics and grass finishing could be having an impact.

Over the course of his career, Torell has collaborated with numerous researchers to co-author several publications. His latest study titled, Assessing the Impact of Exceptional Drought on Emissions and Electricity Generation: The Case of Texas will be published in 2022 in The Energy Journal.. This study investigates how power plants in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) power grid respond to drought and how drought impacts power plant greenhouse gas emissions. According to Torell, it was discovered that the ERCOT system uses a large number of natural-gas-fired power plants instead of large coal plants, which leads to the decline of greenhouse gas emissions in drought conditions. To read more about this study, please click here.

Torell has presented his research at conferences both domestically and internationally, with his most recent presentation taking place at the American Water Resources Association International Conference held in Beijing, China (2019). Torell graduated with two BA degrees, Economics and Foreign Languages (German), and an MS in Agricultural Economics from NMSU. He achieved a PhD in Economics from the University of Wyoming (UW) in 2016.

Torell has served his community and university by being an active member in several societies and outreach efforts. He is the Awards and Acknowledgment Committee Chair, Board Member of the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable, and a Merit Reviewer for the National Science Foundation Solar Energy Technologies Office, among many other appointments. Torell has received awards from UW for his exceptional work, including the Attilio and Hedy Bedont Outstanding College of Business Graduate Student Award and the Department of Economics and Finance Best Graduate Student Teaching Award.

As both a researcher and a professor, Torell states that one of his primary goals is to be useful in solving natural resource and environmental issues by assisting others with his research findings and outcomes. He would also like to create new courses that enrich the lives of his students, and provide them with skills they can call upon as they advance their careers. Regarding future work, Torell shared that he and other researchers across the western U.S. are actively seeking funding to explore connections between the sage grouse habitat, cattle ranchers who rely on that habitat for their livelihoods, and ranching community economic health. He believes there are many questions about whether the economic health of communities that rely on rangeland and native animal and plant species can coexist together, particularly with changing climates and the globalization of markets. There are “always fascinating questions within the agricultural field, because all of [the] questions lie at the intersection of the hard sciences and the humanities…,” Torell affirms. “Farmers manage and live off natural resources that are governed by natural processes, and since everyone has to eat, this field of study will always be critical to our existence.”

eNews November 2021

UNM Law Student Awarded NM WRRI Student Research Grant for a Comparative Analysis of the Nile and Rio Grande Basins

UNM Law Student Awarded NM WRRI Student Research Grant for a Comparative Analysis of the Nile and Rio Grande Basins

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

Egypt, like New Mexico, is in a precarious situation. Roughly 97 percent of Egypt’s irrigation and drinking water comes from the Nile River1, which means any upriver changes to water quantity and timing caused by the recently completed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, future water control by Sudan, and/or climate change could ignite a multi-state crisis. Stephen D. Earsom and his faculty sponsor, Adrian Oglesby of The Utton Transboundary Resources Center and University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Law, believe this situation could inform future management of the Rio Grande Basin in the decades to come.

Earsom, a graduate student working toward his Juris Doctor at the UNM School of Law, has been awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant for a project titled, A Comparative Legal and Policy Analysis of the Nile and Rio Grande Basins. This project addresses the question: How resilient are existing transboundary compacts between the U.S. and Mexico, and between Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and tribal sovereigns? The Nile and the Rio Grande both begin in temperate, mountainous areas and flow into arid regions where water is scarce. According to Earsom, an even more important similarity is that both basins involve multiple sovereigns, legal regimes, and social norms, all of which can form the basis of conflict.

The goal of this project is to look through the dual lenses of and climate change and New Mexico’s current legal landscape to determine how a situation similar to that in the Nile Basin could arise in the Rio Grande Basin and, if the potential exists, how to minimize risk. The project includes three objectives: (1) summarize and compare international, national, and state water laws for the Nile and the Rio Grande watersheds, (2) analyze available conflict resolution tools such as court systems and tribunals for their perceived efficacy and resilience, (3) identify weaknesses in the existing legal systems and agreements, and analyze the implications for New Mexico water stakeholders.

According to Earsom, studying the Nile situation will benefit Rio Grande policymakers, “New Mexico needs to have a resilient and forward-thinking policy and legal basis to be able to resolve the many existing and future legal issues that will arise due to the effects of climate change.” Earsom expects the results of the project may uncover Nile Basin legal or policy errors, vulnerabilities, and missed opportunities that Rio Grande policymakers may wish to learn from and avoid. Alternatively, best practices may be discovered on the Nile that could be successfully employed on the Rio Grande to reduce conflict. Earsom will publish and present the findings of this study to inform policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels. Perceived vulnerabilities identified in the study will lead to recommendations for how to resolve the issues, ideally using existing legal and scientific tools and methodologies. If and where necessary, legal or policy shifts will be recommended. Earsom believes the results will be of value for policymakers, planners, and others interested in the present and future availability of water in New Mexico and the Rio Grande Basin.

Earsom presented a poster on this project at the 66th Annual New Mexico Water Conference. Earsom, originally from Oklahoma, has a BS in Petroleum Engineering and an MS in Biology. After graduation, Earsom plans on leveraging his engineering, ecology, and policy experience, in addition to his law degree, to provide holistic water resources legal counsel.


1  Accessed 14 April 2021.

eNews November 2021

NM WRRI Receives Funding to Investigate Improvements to Agricultural and Environmental Water Resilience

NM WRRI Receives Funding to Investigate Improvements to Agricultural and Environmental Water Resilience

By Robert Sabie, Jr., Research Scientist, Assc.

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute is partnering with a transdisciplinary team of experts to secure a climate-resilient water future. NM WRRI is part of a winning proposal team for a new USDA Sustainable Agricultural Systems project titled, SWIM: Securing a Climate Resilient Water Future for Agriculture and Ecosystems Through Innovations in Measurement, Management, and Markets. The project brings together stakeholders, educators, and scientists to find solutions for the changing water future of the western United States with the goal of enabling innovative water management strategies that produce thriving agriculture, healthy ecosystems and community resilience. The project research team is led by UC Merced and includes researchers from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, New Mexico State University, Utah State University, the Public Policy Institute of California, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the USDA Southwest Climate Hub. Researchers will focus on three testbeds that exemplify agriculture in water-limited regions (Mesilla Valley, New Mexico; Cache Valley, Utah; and San Joaquin Valley, California).

The specific project goal is aimed at using an integrated framework of multiscale measurements and data-driven management decisions for enabling water trading. Each study site will use emerging technology and methods to improve the accuracy of localized measurements and examine the measured long-term impacts of crop choices, managed aquifer recharge, and water banking. These measurements are needed to make management decisions, each having different effects on the local and regional resiliency to climate change. Evaluation of measurements and management decisions at the farm and district scales will lead to an understanding of how differing institutional characteristics affect the viability of water markets as a strategy for climate resilience for agriculture and ecosystems.

New Mexico State University received $1.6 million of the $10 million total project award that will help support two post-doctoral researchers, seven graduate research assistants, and seven faculty and staff researchers. NMSU has a strong group of multidisciplinary team members who are integrated with researchers from the other institutions into four main project research areas: management, measurement, markets, and climate resiliency. NMSU’s team is led by NM WRRI director Dr. Sam Fernald, who will also lead the groundwater recharge modeling in the Mesilla Valley as part of the water management research team. Robert Sabie, NM WRRI research scientist, will manage the NMSU project deliverables and process remote sensing imagery for estimating evapotranspiration as part of the measurement research team. Also, part of the measurement team, Dr. Salim Bawazir, associate professor in Civil Engineering, will oversee ground measurement instrumentation (evapotranspiration, soil moisture, groundwater levels, etc.). Dr. Greg Torell, assistant professor in Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, will examine the key determinants of market benefits and their distributions as part of the water markets team. Dr. Caiti Steele, coordinator at the USDA Southwest Climate Hub, is collaborating with NM WRRI by examining climate change and drought resilience through water balance budgets and peer-to-peer learning networks as part of the climate resiliency team.

Recognizing that extension and education play a critical role in developing successful research outcomes, the project harnesses the expertise of stakeholders through each universities’ extension network. The project also develops K-12 educational games for computational thinking and decision-making in the context of agricultural water management. Dr. Barbara Chamberlin, assistant department head in Media Productions, will develop water and agriculture science and interactive management games. Dr. Richard Heerema, extension pecan specialist, will lead the NMSU extension and outreach efforts and will work closely with stakeholders to co-produce useful information for decision-makers.

For New Mexico, this project will help chart directions for a sustainable agricultural future within the irrigated river basins utilizing the collective knowledge of a world-class team of scientists from different southwestern states. In the Mesilla Valley of the Lower Rio Grande, this project provides synergy for several ongoing NM WRRI-led projects. The New Mexico Statewide Dynamic Statewide Water Budget has several offshoot models that explore the localized interactions of the water budget and how different management decisions impact the water budget. The NM WRRI efforts for measurements will build on current evapotranspiration remote sensing work performed under the USDA AFRI CAP project, Diversifying the Water Portfolio for Agriculture in the Rio Grande Basin. These remote sensing techniques and field measurements will be used to improve the accuracy of regional evapotranspiration models.

The new project started in September of this year and will be completed by August 2026.

For additional information on the New Mexico-based research, contact Robert Sabie at or Sam Fernald at For additional information on the larger project, consult or contact Program Coordinator Sarah Naumes at