eNews January 2023

NM WRRI, NMED Co-host Early Input Workshop for the New Mexico Nonpoint Source Management Plan

NM WRRI, NMED Co-host Early Input Workshop for the New Mexico Nonpoint Source Management Plan

By Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Specialist

The majority of surface water quality problems identified in New Mexico are caused by nonpoint source (NPS) water pollution[1]. As the runoff from rainfall and snowmelt moves over and through the ground, it picks up natural and human-caused pollutants and deposits them into rivers, lakes, wetlands, and groundwater. Section 319 of the federal Clean Water Act requires states to assess NPS pollution and develop management programs to control the sources identified.

The NPS Management Program helps New Mexico meet its surface water quality standards to protect designated uses and groundwater quality for municipal, domestic, and agricultural uses. To this end, according to the most recent NPS Management Plan from 2019, “the NPS Management Program emphasizes watershed-based planning as a means of coordinating watershed restoration efforts, fostering watershed associations, and encouraging partnership among agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the public.”

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI), in cooperation with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), hosted a virtual interactive workshop on January 18 to discuss and provide input to update the New Mexico NPS Management Program. Ninety participants from numerous agencies and organizations attended the workshop to provide input that will inform the revision of New Mexico’s program for managing NPS pollution, which is being undertaken by NMED’s Surface Water Quality Bureau. Throughout the day-long virtual workshop, attendees discussed the current NPS Management Plan, heard presentations on new NPS management initiatives, and participated in a series of breakout group discussions and interactive polling exercises.

Leading the facilitation of the workshop were NM WRRI contractor and natural resources consultant Nikki Dictson and NMED Watershed Protection Section manager Abe Franklin. Additional breakout facilitation and virtual whiteboard notetaking were provided by staff from NMED, NM WRRI, and volunteers from other agencies with NPS management activities. By engaging in the breakout and polling exercises, workshop participants helped to identify and rank existing and potential new activities NMED could build upon and implement into the next NPS management plan.

The input from the workshop will be compiled into a report and provided to workshop participants for comment.

[1] New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission. 2018. 2018-2020 State of New Mexico Clean Water Act §303(d)/§305(b) Integrated Report.

eNews January 2023

Meet the Researcher, Huidae Cho, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University

Huidae Cho, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Huidae Cho is an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at New Mexico State University (NMSU). He specializes in the application of GIS to water resources engineering, hydrologic modeling, and software development. He will teach Open Channel Hydraulics in the spring of 2023.

Dr. Cho currently mentors a PhD candidate in the College of Engineering (Civil Engineering Department) and a master’s student from the Water Science and Management Graduate Degree Program (WSM) at NMSU. The WSM program (Chaired by Dr. Sam Fernald, Director of NM WRRI) provides support and education to students investigating water resources within and beyond New Mexico.

Dr. Cho recently collaborated with NM WRRI on a National Science Foundation proposal last year that, if funded, will allow him to work on a Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to develop surface and groundwater indices to achieve the broader water management goals of the project. Dr. Cho has expressed an interest in further working with NM WRRI on hydrologic modeling, optimization, and uncertainty analysis by incorporating remote sensing data, digital image processing, and meta-heuristic algorithms. He hopes his computing and software development skills will assist the Institute and many other collaborators in additional partnership opportunities.

One of Dr. Cho’s essential objectives in his research is incorporating modern computational power and big data into water resources research to take advantage of advances in remote and onsite sensing and network technologies. “We are now living in an era of big data, but managing and making sense of such data has been challenging in non-computer-science fields,” Dr. Cho explains. He has made it his goal to converge information generated onsite with data being studied in the lab. To strengthen his pre-existing computational hydrology research, Dr. Cho is currently working on creating a fast flow accumulation algorithm for large watersheds using parallel computing. He mentions that this area of research is essential because the spatiotemporal resolution of terrain data vastly increases as high-resolution aerial and satellite sensor data are added, thus needing an effective method that can be used to collect and analyze it.

When breaking down some of the most significant issues within his expertise, Dr. Cho emphasizes that problem-solving with other researchers is critical to obtaining comprehensive and complete data. “I believe that water resources research is highly interdisciplinary because it can easily cross borders among civil engineering, hydrologic science, geospatial science, computer science, etc. However, to the best of my knowledge, not many researchers can truly understand and take advantage of different approaches and data available in these multiple fields to conduct efficient and effective water resources research. This issue becomes aggravated and more obvious when we have to study large watersheds with limited resources. In the end, bigger problems often need a different approach,” Dr. Cho states.

In terms of addressing water resources challenges, Dr. Cho insists it is vital for researchers to develop new approaches for continuous monitoring and modeling of dynamic watersheds. This will be critical in evaluating water infrastructure and adapting to changing climate and constant human development. Regarding natural and anthropogenic effects, Dr. Cho believes researchers will need to document more extreme hydrologic events such as floods or droughts. It will be important to ask how we can integrate yesterday’s models and tomorrow’s data to better assess uncertainty in this process.

Dr. Cho earned his BS and MS from Kyungpook National University in Daegu, South Korea, and his PhD from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. His degrees were in civil engineering, emphasizing GIS and numerical modeling. When asked about his motivation for becoming a researcher, Dr. Cho states, “I wanted to pursue new knowledge for solving challenging problems rather than repeating the same analysis to solve familiar problems in the consulting industry without advancing my knowledge and skill sets.” Dr. Cho’s future water research endeavors include applying distributed computing to modeling processes, machine learning to hydrologic forecasting, and developing computational techniques to improve water infrastructure databases.