eNews October 2019

Community Science Initiative in a Northern New Mexico Drainage

By Lily Conrad, NM WRRI Research Graduate Assistant

This past September, Andrew Black (NM WRRI), Omar Coronado (WSM MS student), and Lily Conrad (WSM MS student) travelled to the Rio Hondo valley in northern New Mexico to begin installing cellular telemetry equipment at acequia monitoring stations. The purpose of these installations is to provide near-real time water quantity data that will be accessible to irrigators and acequia commissioners through a web interface The equipment will be installed in several sites throughout the valley between the communities of Valdez and Arroyo Hondo, periodically collecting water stage (elevation or height) and temperature data to be remotely sent to the interface via cellular towers.

Community members and NMSU researchers plan to collaborate on adaptive capacity assessment, site maintenance, data quality control, and analysis of system impact on water management. In the context of an acequia-irrigated landscape, adaptive capacity is the ability for water leaders to better implement adaptive management or make water resource decisions in the face of uncertainty and various challenges. After a meeting with acequia mayordomos and commissioners, the web interface will be designed to help support the valley’s acequia water sharing agreement over a trial period of the next two irrigation seasons. We anticipate the telemetry system will increase adaptive capacity within acequia water management and possibly improve acequia resilience.

Before the installation of this equipment, commissioners drove up and down the Rio Hondo manually checking flow values once per week. After the new system is in place, each commissioner or shareholder will be able to independently have access to the same water resource information. As a result, the data will be used to create a database to assist with decision making for local needs and concerns. A more precise and consistent understanding of water quantity may help with water management decisions by increasing adaptive capacity during low-flow periods.