New Mexico Water eNews


August 2021

NMT Student Water Research Award master's recipient, Ethan Williams, setting up his ‘field office’ where research gear and measurement equipment will be deployed.

NMT Student Awarded Research Grant to Study Groundwater to Surface Water Exchange
in the Rio Grande

by Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

Groundwater contributions to surface flows (e.g., irrigation returns, lateral basin flow paths) can provide significant base flow in the Rio Grande. As flow paths exit the basin and converge, the solute from each distinct source contributes to the chemical evolution of the riparian aquifer and the river. For example, Hogan et al. (2007) found that deep upwelling groundwater is the primary source of salinization in the Rio Grande. Quantifying the proportions of these distinct groundwater contributions to the Rio Grande hydrologic system could help evaluate the system’s resilience in the face of increased water stress.

NM WRRI has awarded New Mexico Tech graduate student, Ethan Williams, a Student Water Research Grant to study the volumetric and chemical influence of groundwater on the Rio Grande in the southern Albuquerque Basin. The project entitled, Quantifying groundwater to surface water exchanges in the Belen reach of the MRGCD, has three objectives: (1) to identify the proportion and provenance of groundwater contributions in the study area, (2) to record how these fluxes change through the 2021 water year, and (3) to integrate the results into the hydrogeologic context of the basin.

Read entire article by clicking here.

Free Registration Now Open for Binational Water Conference Hosted by NM WRRI and the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez
by Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) and Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ) are pleased to announce Two Nations One Water 2021: Binational Water Conference for Chihuahua, New Mexico, and Texas, taking place virtually September 28-30, 2021. Funding for this conference is also provided in part by the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (TAAP).

This three-day conference, hosted jointly by NM WRRI and UACJ, will bring together water researchers and trusted experts from the shared border region of New Mexico, Texas, and Chihuahua to share research, build trust, and explore ways to work towards a sustainable water future for the U.S. and Mexico. This event builds upon two previous conferences held in 2018 and 2019, hosted by El Paso Water and NM WRRI, respectively.

A host of speakers and presenters from both the U.S. and Mexico are part of a conference agenda that includes topics such as:

  • Transboundary Groundwater Resilience Research
  • Binational Water Governance
  • Water And Agriculture in the Chihuahua, New Mexico, And Texas Region
  • The Physical System and Water Quality of the Mesilla/Conejos-Médanos Aquifer
  • Challenges and Opportunities for the Transboundary Groundwater Resources

Simultaneous English-Spanish interpretation will be made available for all conference sessions. This virtual event also presents a unique networking opportunity for attendees, as they can choose to create a profile that other registrants can view and reach out to contact if desired. Click below to register and find more information such as a preliminary agenda.

Click here to register!

Meet the Researcher

Kathryn Olszowy, Assistant Professor, New Mexico
State University

by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month for Meet the Researcher we had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Olszowy, an assistant professor for the Department of Anthropology at New Mexico State University (NMSU) since 2019. She teaches several courses including biological anthropology, human health and biological variation, and evolutionary medicine. According to Olszowy, the most crucial aspect of teaching is to help students improve their scientific literacy and assist them in understanding social and structural factors that shape human health and wellness. She also emphasizes the importance of encouraging students to grow in their confidence, knowledge, and skills. Helping students realize their potential in creative and productive research outlets is one of the main reasons she values her role as a mentor to any interested undergraduate and graduate students.

One of Kathryn’s students, Hailey Taylor, was recently awarded a New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) Student Water Research Grant for the project entitled, Living with Water-Insecurity: How do people adapt and cope with poor water quality and access?. This research will investigate how residents of colonias in Doña Ana County, New Mexico adapt and cope with inadequate water quality/supply. This study will then examine the potential mental and physical impacts limited water can have on individuals living in these underdeveloped communities along the US-Mexico border. Olszowy comments that Hailey is not only interested in measuring people’s own perceptions of water insecurity but also what they would like to see as possible solutions. This research is a part of Kathryn’s more extensive research study funded by The Mountain West Clinical and Translational Research Infrastructure Network (MW CTR-IN). Further information on Hailey’s study can be found in NM WRRI’s July eNews article located here.

Read entire article by clicking here.

The Future of our Watershed in the Hatch and Mesilla Valleys panel will take place September 9th at 6:30 p.m. virtually on Zoom. Photo credit:

Upcoming First Forum of the New Master Watershed Conservationist Program to Discuss Visions for the Future of the Hatch and Mesilla Valley Watershed
by Dr. Connie Maxwell, NM WRRI Post-Doctoral Assistant

The forum, The Future of our Watershed in the Hatch and Mesilla Valleys, kicks off the first event of a new Master Watershed Conservationist program on September 9th, at 6:30 p.m., as an online zoom event (click here for link, and here for program information and to register). This first forum is open to the public and will feature a panel of local ecological and resource specialists who will engage in discussions with the audience on visions for the future and the needs for watershed stewardship in New Mexico's most southern Rio Grande watershed region. Dr. Connie Maxwell from the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI), who has spearheaded this first session, will provide an overview of watershed issues for the region and moderate the panel, which will include: Gary Esslinger, Elephant Butte Irrigation District; Jeff Witte, NM Department of Agriculture; Gill Sorg, City Councilor, City of Las Cruces; Kevin Bixby, Supervisor, Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District (DASWCD) and Southwest Environmental Center Director; John Gwynne, Doña Ana County Flood Commission; Don McClure, Bureau of Land Management, and Steve Wilmeth, a local rancher with extensive rangeland conservationist experience. This first forum event will also introduce the Master Watershed Conservationist program, which aims to empower citizens to promote stewardship of our local watersheds. Through the series of eight forums scheduled over the next nine months, the program will also engage volunteers in making decisions and implementing conservation projects in New Mexico's southern Rio Grande watershed. Ten community organizations have joined with the DASWCD to organize the volunteer program, including NM WRRI, City of Las Cruces, Doña Ana County Flood Commission, Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District, Elephant Butte Irrigation District, Natural Resource Conservation Service, New Mexico State University Extension, Paso del Norte Watershed Council, Rio Grande Theater, and Spring Rains Consulting.

This program comes at an important time for the Hatch and Mesilla Valley region, as increasing watershed health can help build resiliency, giving both the ecosystem and the community greater capacity to face significant current challenges. Drought and high temperatures are increasing aridity, which is drying upland soils and stressing vegetation and rangeland health. Less upland vegetation results in less infiltration of monsoonal rains, which then leads to increased floods that erode and carry soils into the Rio Grande valley and overwhelm agricultural and flood infrastructure. This forum is convened in partnership with the Hatch and Mesilla Valley Watershed Plan – a South Central NM Stormwater Management Coalition project with planning efforts led by NM WRRI – to inform the watershed plan with the visions, ideas, data, and issues discussed at this evening event. Many partners are joining together in this watershed planning effort to address the root of this region's issues through building up watershed health, identifying needs for innovations, and crafting plans for short-term priorities and long-term resilience. NM WRRI is contributing to this effort and meeting improved watershed goals through leading upland and urban green infrastructure restoration projects to slow and spread flood flows to restore vegetation, reduce flood energy and erosion, and recharge soil moisture and downstream aquifers. These projects will provide key data that will help our team estimate the restoration practices' effects. We use these estimates in innovative tools we have created to identify the best spots for restoration, how much is required to achieve goals, and what the effects could be of large-scale implementation on the regional water conditions (Maxwell et al., 2021; NMWRRI, 2020).

The Master Watershed Conservationist programs will be conducted in live online Zoom events until in-person options become more possible, which will then follow COVID health guidelines. For more information, go to the DASWCD website page for the program:


Maxwell, C.M., Fernald, A.G., Cadol, D., Faist, A.M., King, J.P., 2021. Managing flood flow connectivity to landscapes to build buffering capacity to disturbances: An ecohydrologic modeling framework for drylands. J. Environ. Manage. 278, 111486.

NMWRRI, 2020. Statewide Water Assessment. Statewide Water Assessment. (accessed 3/9/2021)

NM WRRI Technical Completion Report No. 395 is now available online.

Researchers Update Produced Water Quality Database
by Carolina Mijares, NM WRRI Program Manager

NM WRRI announces the publication of Technical Completion Report No. 395. Martha Cather, Senior Scientist, and Raven Goswick, PhD Graduate Assistant from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology have completed their study entitled, Building a Produced Water Budget for New Mexico: Phase I-Database Construction.

The researchers received funding for their research through NM WRRI's NM Universities Produced Water Synthesis Project (NMUPWSP), which initiated Year 1 projects in January 2020 with researchers at NM WRRI, NMSU, NMT, and UNM. This collaboration is funded through state appropriations for a statewide water assessment. The project's Year 1 goal was to synthesize information on produced water science and management. NM WRRI Technical Completion Report No. 395 is posted on the institute's website in its entirety and can be found here.

The report abstract summarizes the project:

The primary objective of this research was to build a geospatial database of oilfield water volume information that could be linked to the existing produced water quality databases. The State of New Mexico provides water production and injection data on a monthly basis, by well. We have compiled this information into a database that will allow us to conduct temporospatial and stratigraphic analysis, to determine in greater detail locations and volumes of water production and injection, and in doing so to have a better understanding of the overall “budget” for oilfield waters in New Mexico. Data includes volumes by month, disposition (produced or injected), location (lat/long and section/township/range), current operator, and pool. Additional well information has been added, with some improvement to the data that is available from the original state data source. Produced water quality data from the Petroleum Recovery Research Center (PRRC) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) databases is also provided. This database will be the basis for several other collaborative efforts including work with New Mexico State University (NMSU) on joining information with existing water quality data, with other researchers at New Mexico Tech (NMT) on examining impacts of injection to stress response in the Permian Basin, and with The University of New Mexico (UNM) on their efforts to identify water and wastewater management trends. A secondary objective of this study has been to try to establish collaborative efforts with operators/service providers to obtain detailed information not available from public sources on water usage, water composition, and recycling efforts. This information will allow us to check database numbers from public sources and begin to create a framework for a future risk assessment study.

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