New Mexico Water eNews


October 2015

Taos provided NM WRRI water conference tour participants with a gorgeous autumn day
to listen to valley farmer Palemon Martinez (far right) talk about acequia research being conducted on his lands by NMSU graduate students.

The 60th annual New Mexico Water Conference took place this year in Taos, maintaining a long tradition of annual water meetings

by Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

The first 25 or so WRRI Annual New Mexico Water Conferences were held at NMSU, and thereafter the conference has been held in venues around the state. From Tucumcari to Alamogordo, from Farmington to Roswell, and many times in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces, the annual conference has brought together the water community to discuss the leading water issues of the day.

Taos provided a beautiful backdrop, with brief rain showers, for the institute’s 60th anniversary water conference. Many participants arrived on Wednesday to attend one of three tours offered: those attending the Lava Tube spring tour were treated to witnessing a rare, large artesian subaqueous spring spout water; others strolled through several hydrologic research sites in the Taos valley and learned from NMSU graduate students about flow measurement instrumentation, water flow, and soil moisture flow monitoring on acequia lands; and another group viewed restoration efforts in the Taos valley and ventured into forested watersheds on which acequia agriculture and many downstream users depend.

Water experts from New Mexico and the West addressed over 250 registered participants. The theme of this year’s conference, Coloring Outside the Lines: Can Science Help Us Be Creative and Innovative in Managing Our Water? was kicked off by Dagmar Llewellyn of Reclamation who set the tone for the conference by asking if New Mexico was resilient to the coming water supply challenges. Dagmar challenged participants to push beyond the edges to see things that we normally don’t see and encouraged people to discuss their ideas with colleagues.

Later in the program, New Mexico Tech Professor Fred Phillips again challenged attendees to think about the legal and policy tools that New Mexico has available to address what science tells us will be a shrinking water supply and a growing population in the state. Professor Phillips gave sobering examples of where we are headed under current laws and asked, “Is it time to consider a new water code?”

Tree-ring science, groundwater availability, balancing agriculture use of surface and groundwater, setting priorities on watersheds, climate change issues, drought responses, and a host of other issues were presented and discussed with conference participants. Speaker PowerPoint slides are available on the conference website. A full proceedings of the conference talks will be prepared and posted on the NM WRRI website.

The NM WRRI looks forward to many more years of continuing its long tradition of providing a forum for everyone in our state to learn more about and discuss issues related to our most precious natural resource — water.

Speaking at the NM WRRI annual water conference on October 8 in Taos, MRGCD hydrologist David Gensler described water measurement and control devices used by the district. This photo shows a lower-cost alternative to expensive electronic and mechanical automation. This long-crested weir can hold upstream water levels very stable, allowing for dependable, predictable, and efficient deliveries to irrigators. This one was recently constructed at Santa Ana Pueblo. Photo courtesy of MRGCD.

MRGCD launches new technologies, cuts diversions
in half

by Erin Ward, WRRI Staff

Speaking at WRRI’s annual water conference in the grips of a regional drought, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District’s David Gensler delivered a rare note of optimism.

“We now have the capability to do more with less water,” he said in reference to the district’s adoption over time of newer equipment and technologies that have allowed MRGCD to halve its diversions from the Rio Grande.

Gensler, a hydrologist celebrating his 20th year with MRGCD, spoke to more than 200 attending the 60th Annual New Mexico Water Conference, held Oct. 7-9 at the Sagebrush Inn & Suites in Taos. He updated attendees on the district’s use of newer gauges, automated gates, and other equipment and technologies that have strengthened efficiencies in its water deliveries.

To give some idea of scale, Gensler explained that the district diverts water from the Rio Grande to irrigate about 60,000 acres of farmland and to bolster supplies for Albuquerque and several other New Mexico communities. In recent years, the district has had to contend with the additional challenge of assisting federal agencies in managing river flows to protect an endangered minnow species. During the 1990s, a period of plentiful river flows, the district diverted some 600,000 acre-feet of water annually to meet its users’ needs. More recently, the district was able to meet these needs while reducing river diversions to less than 300,000 acre-feet, a 50 percent improvement.

Regardless of improvements, Gensler warned, there “are limits to how far you can go” in raising efficiencies, especially in agriculture. Crop yields and farm profits are correlated with sufficient water supplies. “One hundred percent efficiency means you are meeting only the actual consumptive demands of the crops,” he said. The District has put a lot of effort into increasing delivery efficiency to best utilize limited surface water supplies. Now the district is encouraging farmers to invest in technologies to improve their “on-farm” efficiencies.

He reminded attendees that the district, which stretches from Cochiti Dam to the Bosque del Apache, suffers from limited storage capacity and must rely on run-of-the-river water. Unlike EBID to the south, which operates directly from Elephant Butte Reservoir thus and can predict an irrigator’s annual allocation, MRGCD is less certain forecasting actual irrigation supplies, complicating farmers planning and preparation for seasonal crop production.

Gensler reminded the conference participants that competition for Rio Grande surface water continues to increase. The cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe are seeking more river supplies, he said, while the river remains stressed during the current drought to maintain flows for endangered species. “Everybody’s looking for more water.”

NMSU undergraduate Joseph Hernandez presented a poster at the 60th Annual New Mexico Water Conference

Annual water conference affords students opportunity to present their water research
by Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

A highlight of the 60th Annual New Mexico Water Conference Coloring Outside the Lines: Can Science Help Us Be Creative and Innovative? was the Friday morning poster session. Posters were presented by 19 entities including six New Mexico universities, Colorado State University, two international universities from Argentina and Egypt, several federal agencies including USGS and Reclamation, two private companies, Daniel B. Stephens & Associates and Tetra Tech, Inc., and Sandia National Labs. 

Vanessa Garayburu Caruso, a student grant recipient from the University of New Mexico, presented her poster at the 60th Annual New Mexico Water Conference.


Nearly all of the students who recently received NM WRRI Student Research Grants attended the conference and presented their research to the 250-plus conference attendees. In total, 20 students described their water research plans and obtained feedback during the poster session.

One student grant recipient, Joseph Hernandez of New Mexico State University’s department of electrical engineering, presented a poster entitled, Hydro-Weirs: A Scalable Revolutionary Low-Head Hydropower Technology. Joseph is an undergraduate and represented a group of seven electrical engineering students who received a WRRI student grant. These students are being advised by Dr. Nadipuram Prasad of NMSU’s Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

During the poster session, Joseph Hernandez said he fielded many questions about the effectiveness of the project’s weir flow device and how it could be applied to specific water management problems. Joseph said that staff from the Bureau of Land Management, the Taos Pueblo, and Corp of Engineers were particularly interested in the project. Joseph’s report on his presentation is available by clicking here.

All NM WRRI annual water conference poster abstracts are available online.


NMSU Water Science & Management graduate reflects on program
by Shokhrukh-Mirzo (Shok) Jalilov

My New Mexico State University PhD in Water Science and Management has made me very competitive in my field of work. Entering into WSM is one of the most important decisions that I have ever made. Water became a global issue which nobody would have cared about just a few decades ago. Therefore, this sphere needs globally thinking professionals who are not only able to manage water but are also able to handle current and future water challenges.

Water Science and Management worldwide has an advanced network. I was hired to conduct consulting assignments with the International Water Management Institute and Stockholm International Water Institute during my PhD studies at New Mexico State University. We were involved in various projects in different parts of the world: Amu Darya in Central Asia, Tigris-Euphrates and Jordan in the Middle East, Nile in Africa in addition to the famous Rio Grande in America. It was a great opportunity to get to know those regions through my work.

I recently began my new job at United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo, Japan where I work as part of the Water and Urban Initiative project. My research here will be developing modern approaches for the economic evaluation of clean water environment for cities, and advancing and planning water valuation frameworks for sustainable management of water-related services in urban areas. Before coming to UNU, I worked on a two-year research project entitled, Water-energy-food nexus: a cross-sectoral analysis of large Asian river basins at Aalto University in Finland. This project analyzed the cross-sectoral management of water and related natural resources in large Asian river basins, with a focus on transboundary settings shared by several countries (Amu Darya and Mekong). My work examined interconnections between water, food, and, energy and their related security dimensions.

Over the years, I have attended many international conferences and workshops. A recent abstract, Economic development upstream vs water security downstream: Central Asia Case was accepted for presentation at the 2015 World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden.

I credit NMSU’s WSM program in helping me to secure a career path as well as develop skills that continue to help me today. Besides what I learned in program’s wonderful courses, WSM taught me countless other skills including perseverance, teamwork, and the ability to strive for greatness. All of these skills continue to help me in different situations that I encounter in my work. I was happy to have such great mentors as Professors Frank Ward, Brian Hurd, Phillip King, Salim Bawazir and others who still render me their valuable time and helpful advice, which brings me closer to my goals.

They say: “All good thing must come to an end”–three and one-half years with WSM passed quickly–time that I miss a lot. But I am sure those years have equipped me with an engine that can drive me toward my future goals.

Dina Salman presented a poster on her work dealing with food security in Afghanistan
at the 2015 WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas, NV.

Dina Salman and Spencer Wilman present posters and receive scholarships
by Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

Two NMSU students in the Water Science & Management program received graduate student scholarships to attend the WaterSmart Innovations Conference 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 7-9, 2015. The scholarships are sponsored by the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Universities Council on Water Resources. The scholarship pays for registration, technical tour, lodging, and travel. Congratulations to PhD student Dina Salman and MS student Spencer Willman who both presented posters at the conference.

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