New Mexico Water eNews


September 2015

NM WRRI Water Conference Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Join us October 7-9, 2015 at the Sagebrush Inn and Suites in Taos for what promises to be an informative and fun annual water conference. Some new faces will address participants this year:

Kevin Dennehy, USGS, Groundwater Resources Program, will speak on the nation’s groundwater availability and management.

Michael McElhenie is a senior consultant at Being First, Inc, a “change leadership” firm. Michael advises, coaches, and works with leaders to manage organizational change.

Franco Biondi will illustrate ongoing research at the Climate-ecohydrological Assessment Network in Reno, NV on drought reconstructions that show how regional drought severity varies across landscapes and watersheds and how the results can be used for long-term planning.

Brad Udall, a senior water and climate scholar at Colorado State University, will discuss recent news on climate change.

New Mexico’s new State Engineer, Tom Blaine, will update participants on pressing water issues across the state.

Mark Williams of INSTAAR, UC Boulder, will discuss studies on the impact of climate change on ski areas.

Karen MacClune of the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition will share her experiences on two post-event flood studies, one in Boulder, Colorado and one in the Karnali Basin, in Western Nepal.

Earl Greene, USGS senior staff hydrologist, will summarize current drought research throughout the West.

Click here to register for the conference.

Vanessa A. Garayburu (top left), David Ketchum (bottom left), and Seth Davis (right) are among thirteen students who will receive 2015 NM WRRI Student Water Research Grants.

NM WRRI Awards 13 Student Water Research Grants
by Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

A very competitive set of proposals was received this year for the 2015 NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant Program. The institute received a total of 39 proposals from undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students throughout the state representing NMSU, UNM, NM Tech, NMHU, and ENMU.

Funding for the program was made available through the New Mexico State Legislature. Awards support the training of New Mexico’s future water experts and are intended to help students initiate water research projects or to supplement existing projects. Grants are made of up to $6,000 for a nine-month period. Students work under the supervision of a faculty sponsor and provide the NM WRRI with a final project report, which will be posted on the institute’s website. Grant recipients will be presenting posters on their research at the upcoming 60th Annual New Mexico Water Conference in Taos on October 7-9, 2015.

Congratulations to this year’s NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant Program recipients:

University of New Mexico

  • Vanessa A. Garayburu Caruso, Civil Engineering, MS (Dr. Ricardo González-Pinzón), How Does Nutrient Processing Change Along a River Continuum?
  • Jason Glenn Herman, Regional Planning and Water Resources, MS 
    (Dr. Caroline Scruggs), Measuring the Impact of Rate Increases on Consumer Acceptance of Potable Water Reuse Options in the Albuquerque Area
  • Cameron Herrington, Civil Engineering, PhD (Dr. Ricardo González-Pinzón), Combining Empirical Relationships with Data-Based Mechanistic Modeling to Inform Solute Tracer Investigations across Stream Orders
  • Chad Mickschl, Water Resources, MS (Dr. Mark Stone), Effects of Ground Heat Flux on Transitional Snowpack in the Arid Southwest Climate  

New Mexico Tech

  • John Chilleri, Mathematics, MS (Dr. Brian Borchers), Development of Calibration Procedures for Large Aperture Scintillometers for Validation of Statewide New Mexico Evapotranspiration Maps
  • David Ketchum, Earth & Environmental Science, MS (Dr. Fred Phillips), Using Chloride Mass Balance to Quantify Groundwater Recharge
    in the Mountains of New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico University
  • Sabrina Michael, Biology, MS (Dr. Marv Lutnesky), Potential Interactions of Turbidity and Water Velocity on Group Cohesion in Cyprinid Fishes from Two New Mexico River Drainages (Pecos and Canadian Rivers)
New Mexico Highlands University
  • Grant Eyster, Natural Resource Management, MS (Dr. Edward Martinez), Aquatic and Morphological Assessment of the Gallinas River Within the Las Vegas, New Mexico City Limits
New Mexico State University
  • Sativa Cruz, Environmental Science, BS (Dr. KC Carroll), Implementation of Drip Irrigation System Facilitates Collaboration Between Future Agricultural Leaders
  • Seth Davis, Civil Engineering, MS (Dr. Zohrab Samani), Development of a Design and Calibration Manual for Simple Flow Measurement Devices in Open Channel
  • Joseph Hernandez, Abdullah Alluhaidan, Felipe Farias, Jesus Moreno, McDonald Garley, Saleh Aldaihani, and Xaviar Enriquez, Electrical Engineering, BS (Dr. Nadipuram Prasad), Hydro-Weirs: A Technology for Low-Head Hydropower Generation
  • Sahar Qavi, Chemical Engineering, PhD (Dr. Reza Foudazi), Five Cents is Still a Lot: New Generation of Anti-Bacterial Absorbents Based on Functionalized Cellulose Aerogels for Water Treatment in Rural Areas
  • Hugo Luis Rojas Villalobos, Water Science & Management, PhD 
    (Dr. Chris Brown), 3D Bathymetric Model of a Shallow Lagoon Measured by a Solar Powered Low-Cost Autonomous Surface Vehicle Prototype in Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua, Mexico

Year Two of Statewide Assessment Underway
by Jesslyn Ratliff, Program Specialist

The New Mexico Legislature provided funds for FY 16 that will support the second year of a NM legislative initiative that includes the continuation of a statewide water assessment. NM WRRI's Statewide Water Assessment is an effort that will complement existing state agency water resource assessments. It will provide new, dynamic (updated frequently), spatially representative assessments of water budgets for the entire state of New Mexico. The Statewide Water Assessment development began in July of 2014 and made major headway during the first year.

With FY 16 funding, NM WRRI has funded seven different projects that involve researchers and collaborators from NMSU, NM Tech, USGS, NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, Petroleum Recovery Research Center, NM Office of the State Engineer (OSE), UNM, Sandia National Laboratories, and Tetra Tech Inc. Projects that are continuing into a second year of support include:

  • Characterization of Produced Water in New Mexico - Martha Cather, Petroleum Recovery Research Center, NM Tech
  • Implementing a Web-based Streamflow Statistics Tool for New Mexico - Nathan Myers and Matt Ely, USGS
  • Soil Water Balance Method for Statewide Evapotranspiration Assessment - Jan Hendrickx and Dan Cadol, NM Tech; Thomas Schmugge and Steve Walker, NM WRRI
  • Recharge Quantification and Recharge Model Assessment for the State of New Mexico - Talon Newton, NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources; Fred Phillips, NM Tech
  • A Dynamic Statewide Budget for New Mexico - Jesse Roach, Tetra Tech Inc.; Vince Tidwell, Sandia National Laboratories; Bruce Thomson, UNM; Ken Peterson, NM WRRI
  • Improving Evapotranspiration Estimation Using Remote Sensing Technology - Zohrab Samani and Salim Bawazir, NMSU
  • Groundwater Level and Storage Changes in Alluvial Basins along the Rio Grande, New Mexico - Alex Rinehart and Stacy Timmons, NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources; Nathan Myers, USGS; Mike Johnson, OSE

For more information on each project, please click here.

Rebekah Horn (left) successfully defended her PhD dissertation in August 2015 and will graduate from NMSU in December. She received an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant, which supplemented her dissertation, advised by Dr. David Cowley. Rebekah is assisted here by Andy Lawrence as they capture tadpole shrimp in a playa lake at NMSU’s Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center.

NMSU PhD Student Studies Tadpole Shrimp in Temporary Ponds
by Rebekah Horn, New Mexico State University

Ephemeral ponds, also known as playa lakes, serve as a critical water source for desert dwellers and become a focal point of biodiversity during times of flooding. Many organisms, such as tadpole shrimp, occur only in playa lakes and are an important link in the desert food chain. These organisms can occur in almost any temporary body of water including stock tanks used for cattle watering and flood retention ponds. The local environment can directly impact the species present in the temporary ponds.

To understand the water quality impact on the species present in playa lakes, Horn’s research focused on comparing which tadpole shrimp species were present within playa lakes near Las Cruces, NM and the Otero Mesa. Different land-use practices, like ranching and urban areas, and habitat types, like desert scrub and desert grassland, dominant these regions providing a suitable study area to determine what environmental factors have the highest influence on the water quality of ephemeral ponds. Once we know how the environment affects species distribution of a keystone crustacean species, like the tadpole shrimp, we can potentially use this information to develop a bio-indicator for ephemeral pond water quality.

The study’s first objective was to determine if water chemistry differences exist between playa lakes found in the Otero Mesa region of NM compared to playa lakes found near Las Cruces. The second objective was to determine if the tadpole shrimp species occurring within these playa lakes are different between regions and if the difference can be linked to a water quality parameter.

To test the first objective, dried soil was collected from 17 playa lakes, pond water was reconstituted in the lab by adding known amounts of dried soil to distilled water, and a suite of water chemical measurements were taken. The water chemistry panel for all playa lakes consisted of pH, salinity, dissolved oxygen, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, phosphate, sulfate, and sulfide. To test for differences among species, live tadpole shrimp samples were collected from each playa lake and a region of the mitochondrial genome was sequenced. The sequence data were compared using phylogenetic trees to determine species distinctness. No major differences were found in the water chemistry profiles between regions, however, the ammonia levels in the water from playa lakes in the Otero Mesa were, in some cases, orders of magnitude larger than that measured from lakes near Las Cruces.

Cattle grazing occurs in both study regions and waste from cattle has been shown to be a source of elevated ammonia in water. Further research is needed to determine if grazing occurs more frequently on the Otero Mesa, and if increased cattle presence accounts for the elevated ammonia levels. The genetic analysis of the tadpole shrimp species indicates that a different species of tadpole shrimp is present in the Otero Mesa playa lakes compared to the species occurring in the Las Cruces lakes. This result was speculated based on slight morphological differences of the species between regions, but the genetic analysis performed in this study provides validation of distinct species. With no major differences in the measured water chemistry, it is only speculation as to why different tadpole shrimp species occur in the Las Cruces and the Otero Mesa regions.

Future research in this area should include surveying additional playa lakes found between the Otero Mesa and Las Cruces, regions that might serve as a contact zone for the different tadpole shrimp species. Further, the water should be tested for other measures not taken into account in this study, such as metallic components, that could resolve if there is an environmental component to species differentiation.

Ashley Gilpin (left) Mario de la Torre Terrazas (middle) and Sofia Martinez-Cantu (right)

NM WRRI Welcomes Three Part-time Student Assistants
by Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

Assisting the NM WRRI in a range of activities are three NMSU undergraduates. Sophomore Ashley Gilpin is busy helping with preparations for the upcoming annual water conference. Ashley is from Silver City and is working on a business degree. Mario de la Torre Terrazas is a senior aerospace engineering student and is assisting with the water conference proceedings. Sofia Martinez-Cantu is a senior industrial engineering student and had been assisting the institute’s Border Outreach director, Erin Ward. Sofia is now helping with layout of last year’s water conference proceedings.

Jesslyn Ratliff, Sam Fernald, and Robert Sabie with the acequia painting in the lobby of Stucky Hall, home of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute at NMSU.

Institute Staff and Visitors Enjoy Acequia Painting
by Jesslyn Ratliff, Program Specialist

In June, we announced the institute’s purchase of an oil painting by Taos artist George Chacón. Prior to being hung in the lobby of Stucky Hall, the home of the WRRI, the painting was a part of the El Agua Es Vida exhibit that was shown at the Maxwell Museum in Albuquerque. The exhibit is a part of a project titled CNH: Acequia Water Systems Linking Culture and Nature: Integrated Analysis of Community Resilience to Climate and Land Use Changes. NM WRRI Director Sam Fernald is the Principal Investigator of the CNH project while Jesslyn Ratliff is the Project Coordinator, and Robert Sabie is a research assistant. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

With the permission of the artist, NM WRRI used the painting as cover art for our 60th Annual New Mexico Water Conference that is set to be held on October 7-9 in Taos, NM.

The Maxwell Museum’s description of the art, which accompanies the painting, reads:

This painting by George Chacón was commissioned specifically for this exhibition. It illustrates the acequia hydrosocial cycle. The term “hydrosocial cycle” emphasizes that water is inseparable from a human or social context. Specifically, this painting depicts the acequia hydrosocial cycle, encompassing human settlement and a subsistence pattern within a watershed system. This subsistence pattern involves flood irrigation, return flow, and the recharging of the aquifer.

To illustrate this, the artist painted the surface depicting human activity and the flow of water, with a representation of that flow of water returning to the aquifer, depicted in the bottom layer, as it is being recharged by the human practice of irrigation.

George Chacón is a muralist and woodworker who lives and paints in Taos, NM, having roots in this area that are centuries old. Chacón has an appreciation of the importance of water to all of our wellbeing, and water is often depicted in his paintings and murals. In working locally, Chacón often works with local students to create his murals. He is honored to have been included in this exhibit.

Courtesy of the artist

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