New Mexico Water eNews


September 2020

Jancoba Dorley, Engineering PhD student from UNM, subsampling river water for chemical analysis at UNM's Environmental Engineering Laboratory.

UNM Student Awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to Study Nutrient Impairment in Streams
by Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

Nutrient contamination poses a risk to water quality, ecosystems, and their functions. According to the 2018-2020 State of New Mexico Clean Water Act Section 303(d)/Section 305(b) Integrated Report, nutrient contamination is among the three most common causes of river and stream water quality impairment in New Mexico. Water quality impairments in small streams can propagate to larger rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Water quality impairment from nutrients can cause aquatic species to die and can even contaminate drinking water.

Jancoba Dorley, a PhD Engineering student at the University of New Mexico (UNM), is conducting experiments at the Valles Caldera National Preserve in order to better understand nutrient impairment. In June, Dorley was awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to analyze how biogeochemical interactions and complex transport dynamics influence the processing and export of nutrients in streams. Dorley’s project entitled, Transport and biogeochemical controls on nutrient retention along stream corridors, will be carried out under the guidance of his faculty advisor, Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez‑Pinzon.

Read entire article by clicking here.

65th Annual New Mexico Water Conference Call for Poster Abstracts Deadline Extended to October 12, 2020
by Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

The 65th NM WRRI Annual New Mexico Water Conference will take place exclusively through Zoom on October 26 – 29, 2020, with the theme Meeting New Mexico’s Pressing Water Needs: Challenges, Successes, and Opportunities. A highlight of each year’s annual water conference is a poster session where participants can learn about current water research taking place around the state and region. This Call for Poster Abstracts seeks summaries on any water research or management topic within the state. This year’s virtual poster session offers a wonderful opportunity for networking with state and regional water experts, including researchers from agencies and academia. We anticipate about 250 attendees at this year's conference.

This year’s virtual poster session will be held across two days in two 90‑minute sessions: October 28 from 2:00 p.m to 3:30 p.m. and October 29 from 9:30 a.m to 11:00 a.m. This year, we will be using a browser-based poster session application. Attendees will navigate around a 2-D virtual poster hall to video chat one-on-one with presenters and network with other attendees at lounge areas. Coordination staff from our poster session provider will be in touch with accepted poster presenters to provide instructions, guidance, and technical assistance leading up to and during the poster session. The deadline for submitting an abstract has been extended to Monday, October 12. Accepted poster presenters will be notified by Monday, October 19.

Be sure to visit our conference website to view a preliminary program and take advantage of free early conference registration: register here!

Submit a Poster Abstract
Eroding Channel in the Rincon Arroyo Watershed.

Watershed Restoration in the Rincon Arroyo Watershed
by Connie Maxwell, NM WRRI Graduate Research Assistant

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) awarded the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) a Watershed Implementation grant funded by the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act Section 319 funds, The Rincon Subbasins 319 Project. NM WRRI, in collaboration with the Stormwater Coalition, will work to bring the best science to better understand watershed dynamics and develop tools for land managers to achieve watershed restoration to address regional flooding and water supply challenges. The NM WRRI is the grant recipient and project lead; other project collaborators include the Doña Ana County Flood Commission as the long-term manager of the project and member of the steering committee, the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, Bureau of Land Management, the Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District, and additional project experts as key personnel.

Floods scour soils and transport sediment, which in turn clog downstream riparian areas, agricultural infrastructure, and overwhelm downstream flood control infrastructure. A root cause of flooding is vegetation loss in the uplands exacerbated by droughts, growing aridity, and land management. The Rincon Subbasins 319 Project implements a watershed restoration plan in two subbasins of the Rincon Arroyo Watershed with the primary objective to reduce sediment transport that includes E. coli to the impaired reach of the Rio Grande through slowing flood flows and spreading them across the landscape. This project will examine restoration and management approaches that exploit storms that come in fewer and more intense events to achieve revegetation (Bestelmeyer et al. 2018; Holmgren et al. 2006). The restoration design was informed by the results from an innovative ecohydrologic modeling framework developed by Maxwell et al. (2020) that quantified the extent of restoration needed to build the watershed’s buffering capacity to disturbances such as flooding and droughts. The small-scale, low impact restoration practices will include constructing stone lines, wire and brush lines, microcatchments, and one-rock dams to infiltrate storm runoff in two sub-watersheds totaling 180 acres. The project will compare flow dynamics, E. coli loading, and vegetation between treated and non-treated control subbasins to quantify and compare the effects of the restoration practices. The collaborative process and critical science provided by this project will support water managers and inform other projects across regional watersheds of the Hatch and Mesilla Valleys.


Bestelmeyer, B. T., D. P. Peters, S. R. Archer, D. M. Browning, G. S. Okin, R. L. Schooley, and N. P. Webb. 2018. The grassland–shrubland regime shift in the southwestern United States: Misconceptions and their implications for management. Bioscience 68:678-690.

Holmgren, M., P. Stapp, C. R. Dickman, C. Gracia, S. Graham, J. R. Gutiérrez, C. Hice, F. Jaksic, D. A. Kelt, and M. Letnic. 2006. Extreme climatic events shape arid and semiarid ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 4:87-95.

Maxwell, C.M., Fernald, A., Cadol, D., Faist, A.M., King, J.P. (in press) 2020. Managing flood flow connectivity to landscapes to build buffering capacity to disturbances: an ecohydrologic modeling framework for drylands. Journal of Environmental Management. 

Meet the Researcher

Richard Heerema, Extension Pecan/Pistachio Specialist and Professor, New Mexico State University
by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

For this month’s Meet the Researcher, we had the opportunity to interview Richard Heerema, an Extension Pecan and Pistachio Specialist for New Mexico State University (NMSU) Extension Plant Sciences (hired 2005), and Professor (promoted in 2017) for the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at NMSU. Richard primarily researches new strategies to help improve pecan production issues faced by New Mexico pecan growers with a focus on alternate bearing, fertilizer usage, and irrigation. He also coordinates educational programs for pecan and other tree nut producers, and assists local orchardists by relaying new research aimed at improving production yield. Heerema states that he greatly values his close working relationships with pecan industry clientele, and feels his role allows him to acknowledge real challenges experienced by farmers and actively address these issues by utilizing university research efforts and extension education.

Heerema double majored in Biology and Agriculture, and Plant Science from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa in May 1998. He received his PhD in Plant Biology from the University of California (UC), Davis in September 2005 with his dissertation entitled, Compartmentalization of carbon and nitrogen stresses within almond spurs, under the advisement of Drs. Theodore M. Dejong, and Steven A. Weinbaum. Before attaining his current position at NMSU, he was a research assistant at Dry Creek Laboratories in Hughson, California (1998-2000) where he was able to work with new fruit and nut cultivars. After this appointment, Richard conducted his doctoral research at UC Davis (2000-2005), which focused on testing the branch autonomy hypothesis and its relation to almond spur carbohydrate storage, flowering, mortality and fruit set.

Read entire article by clicking here.

Based on the new produced water database, researchers can examine the distribution data of water production and injection in the state. The above figures show that in general, wells that have the highest volumes of water injected also tend to have the highest injection rates.

NMT Researchers Upgrade Searchable
Produced Water Database

by Carolina Mijares, NM WRRI Program Manager

Each month NM WRRI is featuring an eNews article describing an individual focus of the ongoing New Mexico Universities Produced Water Synthesis Project. This month we are featuring research being carried out by Martha Cather and Raven Goswick at the Petroleum Recovery Research Center (PRRC), New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT).

New Mexico, particularly the Permian Basin, has seen a rebirth in oil and gas activity in the past decade due to the development of unconventional resource plays. The increase of horizontal well drilling and hydraulic fracturing has resulted in a dramatic increase of water produced, hauled, and injected. The fresh and produced water used in these operations must be mapped out to understand the demand on freshwater resources in New Mexico, the effects of disposal of large volumes of produced water, and reuse efforts by operators.

Read entire article by clicking here.

NMSU Graduate Student, Lily Conrad, presenting her poster to a conference participant at the 64th Annual New Mexico Water Conference.

65th Annual New Mexico Water Conference Preliminary Program Now Available
by Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This year’s 65th Annual New Mexico Water Conference is less than a month away, which means you should take advantage of our free early registration before it’s too late. This year’s conference entitled, Meeting New Mexico’s Pressing Water Needs: Challenges, Successes, and Opportunities, will address the critical questions and water issues facing New Mexicans over the course of a four-day all-virtual webinar.

Among the many distinguished speakers and participants, this year’s keynote address will be delivered by New Mexico’s senior Senator, Tom Udall. With over two decades of federal public service, first as a Representative for New Mexico’s Third Congressional District in 1999, and then serving as Senator since 2009, Tom Udall will open the conference proceedings on Tuesday, October 27 by providing attendees his perspective on critical water issues facing New Mexico as his time in the U.S. Senate comes to a close.

This year’s conference program will also include sessions on the challenges and opportunities for Navajo Nation’s water access in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, how forest and watershed restoration efforts are providing more clean water, new evaluations of water policy in New Mexico, and much more. Visit our conference website to check out the preliminary program and register for free.

Register Here for Free!
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