eNews July 2022

Transboundary Basin Challenges Presented at The American Geophysical Union Frontiers in Hydrology: Future of Water Conference

Transboundary Basin Challenges Presented at The American Geophysical Union Frontiers in Hydrology: Future of Water Conference

By Ana Cristina García-Vásquez, NM WRRI Graduate Research Assistant

Ana Cristina García-Vásquez is a PhD student at New Mexico State University (NMSU), and works at the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) as a Graduate Research Assistant. Since 2015, she has been working on the identification of different groundwater recharge sources on the Mexican side of the Mesilla/Conejos Médanos transboundary aquifer system. This recharge estimation is necessary to know the origin, quantity, and quality of the available resources, with the main objective of creating better management of transboundary aquifers. García-Vásquez works alongside Dr. Zohrab Samani (NMSU), Dr. Alexander (Sam) Fernald (NMSU), Dr. Alfredo Granados (UACJ), and Andrew Robertson (USGS), who are also members of the doctoral committee for the Water Science and Management Program.

In collaboration with her colleagues, García-Vásquez worked on an isotopic analysis to identify the recharge origin in the Conejos Médanos (CM) aquifer, which provides data on the CM area. Through this research, she discovered no traces of tritium content, which indicated that the water in the CM aquifer is from the Quaternary Age and, therefore, cannot be renewed since a recharge source is not present. To elaborate on this effort, García-Vásquez and her team have recently published an article titled, Investigation of the origin of Hueco bolson and Mesilla basin Aquifers (US and Mexico) with isotopic data analysis, published by the open-access journal, Water.

García-Vásquez presented a part of this investigation at The American Geophysical Union Frontiers in Hydrology: Future of Water Conference, held on June 19-24, 2022, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in a session titled, Transboundary Groundwater Resilience through Collaborative Models, Data, Systems, and Discussion. Her presentation on the Assessment of Recharge Potential in the Mesilla/Conejos Médanos Transboundary Aquifer between the US and Mexico, introduced the estimation of the replenishment recharge from the same aquifer system based on its drawdown data. These data were provided by the Municipal Board of Water and Sanitation of Ciudad Juárez (JMAS). In conclusion, the data analyzed provides an estimated groundwater recharge amounts to 1.34 million m3 per year, therefore, the extraction rate in Mexico exceeds the recharge in Mexico.

As a follow-up to the session, a round table discussion titled, Transboundary groundwater issues, challenges, and approaches to sustainable development and management at Frontiers in Hydrology Meeting 2022, was organized by Dr. Fernald in collaboration with Anne Marie Matherne (USGS) and several other participants. In this round table, attendees discussed legal frameworks of groundwater, the limitations of exchanging data, and collaborations between different countries. They also talked about the fear/uncertainty of sharing data due to legal challenges, and the accessibility of sharing data between Canada and Mexico. Problems and solutions regarding these U.S. international borders were discussed in addition to how binational information could be stored.

The different perspectives of the participants established a binational dialogue so as not to abuse a shared system. To conclude, they talked about the necessity to produce organized research science to conduct and support the decisions/agreements in these countries. Research is the key to present the current state of the aquifer and address the challenges of the current crisis. Participants agreed they are on the right track to share the information, have discussions, and think about future agreements.