eNews September 2016

Forty Posters to be Displayed at NM WRRI Annual Water Conference (continued)

Post-doc María Milanés-Murcia will present a description of the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (TAAP), one of several projects on which she is working. The U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act was enacted in 2006 to conduct binational scientific research to assess priority transboundary aquifers and to address water information needs of border communities. TAAP is a unique federal agency-university-binational partnership and includes the U.S. Geological Survey, New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, Arizona Water Resources Research Center, Texas Water Resources Institute, International Boundary and Water Commission, stakeholders, and Mexican counterparts to map and characterize the hydrogeology of priority transboundary aquifers along the border region. María’s poster will illustrate the achievements and future objectives of the program in the Hueco Bolson and Mesilla Aquifers.

Connie Maxwell, a PhD student in NMSU’s Water Science and Management (WSM) program, will present a poster on her research using integrated models to demonstrate that a scenario of increasing use of agriculture as a system for recharge can both increase water storage and mitigate catastrophic flooding as compared to current conditions. The anticipated results will map pilot study areas that indicate zones of the most potential water storage benefits from optimized management. Assessing generalizable parameters will then also contribute to regional scenarios analyses in WRRI’s dynamic statewide water balance model. Her work intends to reveal how a system of increased agricultural recharge has the potential to align social investment with sustainable management goals.

Another NMSU student in the WSM program, Aracely Tellez, studied the use of produced water – a byproduct of oil and gas drilling – as a potential source of water to offset freshwater use in agriculture in Southeast New Mexico. Aracely, a master’s student, presents in her poster soil and water quality considerations that would be expected and required from treated, produced water in order to meet acceptable use in terms of crop tolerance.

To register for the conference, go to:

eNews September 2016

Refinement of Statewide Water Assessment Underway

A Dynamic Statewide Water Budget for New Mexico (Jesse Roach, Tetra Tech Inc.; Ken Peterson, Tetra Tech Inc.; Joshua Randall, NM WRRI;
Bruce Thomson, UNM; Vince Tidwell, Sandia National Laboratories)

DSWB allows visualization of historical mass balance terms at the river basin, water planning region, county, and state level for any month or series of consecutive months from 1975 through 2013 including a range of uncertainty associated with each mass balance term. Specific objectives for the third year of DSWB development include: incorporation of new data, development of dynamic future scenario analysis, and continued development of graphic user interface.


Estimation of Total Available Water (TAW) as Input for the Evapotranspiration Recharge Model (ETRM) for Statewide Evapotranspiration Assessment (Jan Hendrickx, NM Tech; Dan Cadol, NM Tech)

The overall study goal is to develop a procedure for cost-effective assessment of evapotranspiration (ET) at spatial and temporal scales needed by New Mexico’s water resources managers. Because accurate estimates of TAW will greatly improve the accuracy of ET estimates with ETRM, specific objectives for the third year are:

  1. Further develop procedure [Hendrickx et al., 2016b] for estimation of TAW at a spatial resolution adequate for assessment of potential recharge in mountainous regions.
  2. Test and validate the improved procedure for TAW estimation in two mountain regions of New Mexico.
  3. Map TAW over the entire state of New Mexico at the spatial resolution of 250 m that is used by the EvapoTranspiration and groundwater Recharge Model (ETRM).


Regional Equations for Estimating Mean Annual Streamflow at Ungaged Stream Locations in New Mexico (Anne Tillery, USGS; Kyle Douglas-Mankin, USGS)

The proposed work will provide a statewide set of regional equations that can be used to calculate mean annual streamflow at ungaged locations on perennial streams. These equations will be incorporated into the NM StreamStats application in 2018 if funding is available. The regional equations will allow water-resource managers to calculate the mean annual streamflow for a watershed, at a county boundary, or other user-defined areas and will provide commonly needed, scientifically defensible hydrologic information in a uniform and non-biased manner.


Using Remote Sensing to Develop Evapotranspiration (ET) Fluxes for the Mesilla Valley Aquifer (Zohrab Samani and Salim Bawazir, NMSU)

The work proposed here will include: measurement of ET fluxes for a crop (to be selected; alfalfa or pecan) in the Mesilla Valley; compare ET estimates using satellite-remotely based models identified as  Simplified Surface Energy Balance (SSEB) and Regional Evapotranspiration Estimation Model (REEM) with ground measurements that reflect local climatic and geographic landscape conditions; calibrate model parameters; validate modified models; and generate spatial and temporal ET fluxes (i.e., ET maps) for the Mesilla Valley. The expected benefit from this project will be a more accurate estimate of ET fluxes for the Mesilla Valley using remote sensing technology at higher resolution (Landsat8 satellite data). The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a satellite-based ET model that could estimate regional ET for the assessment of water in New Mexico without the need for a more expensive ground-level ET flux measurement. The regional ET fluxes can be used for the following purposes: groundwater modeling for groundwater management; use by farmers in irrigation scheduling, conservation measures, and other agronomic practices; optimizing water release from reservoirs; and other applications.


Groundwater Level and Storage Change in the Southern High Plains Aquifer and in Two Variable Confined Aquifers (Alex Rinehart,
NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources; Geoff Rawling, NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources; Nathan Myers, USGS; Mike Johnson, OSE)

The fundamental results of this study are (1) a consistent method to estimate changes in groundwater levels and storage in variably-confined aquifers, such as those in the Roswell Artesian District and the San Juan Basin; and (2) maps and estimates of groundwater storage change and depth-to-water changes in the Southern High Plains aquifer in Curry and Roosevelt Counties using the methodology developed in previous years. The proposed work is a continuation of work that estimated the amount of water level and storage changes in basin-fill aquifers. In addition, work will be done to continue to populate the New Mexico Water Level Database housed at the NMBGMR and NM WRRI with the latest water levels provided by the USGS, NM OSE and other local entities.


Continued Development of the Evapotranspiration and Recharge Model (ETRM): Focused Recharge through Ephemeral Streams
(Talon Newton, NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources; Fred Phillips, NM Tech)

This project will work to improve recharge estimates from ETRM by including a representation of focused recharge. In this process, runoff from hillslope areas flows to ephemeral channel networks, where some fraction of the water seeps into the channel bed. This bed seepage may supply riparian vegetation or continue downward as deep drainage recharge to the water table. In closed basins, channel flow that does not infiltrate into the streambed will eventually reach a playa or other depression where it will then infiltrate or evaporate. Because ETRM already estimates runoff from each cell, the next step is routing this runoff to channels and estimating bed seepage. This work focuses on ephemeral channels, because perennial channels are typically connected to the groundwater in a stable way, and either gain flow from the groundwater, or lose water in equilibrium with the evaporative demand of the surrounding riparian community that has developed. Additionally, perennial streams constitute a small fraction of total channel length in New Mexico. This work will be done by a master’s degree student in hydrology at NM Tech.


Isotopic and Geochemical Characterization of Deep and Shallow Groundwater Residence Time, Connectivity, and Mixing in the Mesilla Basin, New Mexico (Kenneth Carroll, NMSU; Andrew Robertson, USGS)

 This project will use geochemical and isotopic signatures to characterize the age (and residence time) and sources (and mixing) of groundwater at various depths within the Mesilla Aquifer system. This will include the development and use isotopes of noble gases for the first time in this region of the world, which will fill a critical time gap in methods commonly used for groundwater age dating. This project will provide the stakeholders in the region with quantified estimates of the deep groundwater contributions to the shallow groundwater and surface-water systems of the Mesilla Basin. The study provides water resource managers with information on groundwater movement and salinity to aid in effectively managing the water resources of the Mesilla Basin, by protecting the sources of recharge and fresh groundwater reserves and managing use to reduce salt loading. Age dating and residence time evaluation versus depth within the groundwater system will support evaluation of recharge, upwelling flow sources, flow dynamics, and resiliency of the groundwater system, which is critical for sustainable management of our groundwater as a water supply resource.


Project reports, posters, and fact sheets from the past two years of the Statewide Water Assessment can be found here:

eNews September 2016

NM WRRI Awards 15 Student Water Research Grants

University of New Mexico

James Fluke, Civil Engineering, MS; (Dr. Ricardo González-Pinzón)
Characterization of pathogenic bacterial regrowth and impairment potential along the Rio Grande near Albuquerque

Amanda Otieno, Biology/Water Resources Program, MS; (Dr. Rebecca Bixby)
Investigation of soil composition from burned areas affecting water quality changes following wildfires

Chase Stearnes, Civil Engineering, BS; (Dr. Andrew Schuler)
A lab and pilot scale comparison of attached growth and suspended culture for the algal remediation of arsenic from water


New Mexico Tech

Johnny Hinojosa, Earth and Environmental Science/Geology, MS; (Dr. Peter Mozley)
Integrated geological, geophysical, and hydrological study of field-scale fault-zone cementation and permeability

Michael Wine, Earth & Environmental Science, Hydrology, PhD; (Dr. Daniel Cadol)
Spatial prediction of soil hydraulic properties accounting for variable wildfire burn severity, Valles Caldera, New Mexico


Eastern New Mexico University

Andrew Letter, Biology, MS; (Dr. Ivana Mali)
Monitoring water quality parameters within a known range of Western River Cooters (Pseudemys gorzugi) within Black River Drainage


New Mexico Highlands University

Behnaz Yekkeh, Natural Resource Management, MS; (Dr. Edward Martinez)
Is there a relationship between tree canopy cover change on the landscape and the discharge of Gallinas Creek through time (from 1939 to 2015) in Las Vegas, NM?


New Mexico State University

Garrett Gibson, Civil Engineering, BS; (Dr. Salim Bawazir)
Improved meteorological infrastructure for water management in the Middle and Lower Rio Grande, New Mexico

Befekadu Habteyes, Water Science and Management, PhD; (Dr. Frank Ward)
Economic performance of water conservation and storage capacity development to adapt to climate in the American Southwest

Manuel Lopez, Geography, MS; (Dr. Daniel Dugas)
Post wildfire geomorphic and hydrological effects in the Upper Santa Fe Municipal Watershed

Nhat Nguyen, Chemistry and Biochemistry, BS/BA; (Dr. Antonio Lara)
Uranium abatement for contaminated, limited water resources using clay pellets

Stephanie Richins, Chemical and Materials Engineering, BS; (Dr. Hongmai Luo)
Solar energy assisted water purification: Incorporation of an environmentally benign porous graphitized carbon nitride photocatalyst with graphitized polyacrylonitrile for efficient oxidation of toxic arsenite

Jeremy Schallner, Animal and Range Sciences, MS; (Dr. Amy Ganguli)
Effects of NRCS and BLM conservation practices on plant and soil biological communities and hydrologic processes in the Rio Puerco Watershed

Tyler Wallin, Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology, MS; (Dr. Colleen Caldwell)
Gila National Forest stream temperature and intermittency monitoring network for species of special interest

William Weaver, Civil Engineering, PhD; (Dr. Lambis Papelis)
Pore-scale transport of strontium and chromate during dynamic water content changes in the unsaturated zone

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.”