New Mexico Water eNews


January 2019

     NMSU graduate student Kevin Boyko (center) taking discharge measurements in Rio
     Hondo near Taos, NM. He is joined by fellow students José Juan Cruz (left) and Ian
     Hewitt (right).

NMSU Graduate Student Studies Groundwater Recharge of Irrigated Farmland in New Mexico
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Kevin Boyko, graduate student in the Water Science and Management multidisciplinary program at New Mexico State University (NMSU), is studying the hydrologic budget of agriculture lands under typical farm irrigation management practices to answer the question, “How much water infiltrates the ground to recharge groundwater?” He is working with multidisciplinary advisors Dr. Sam Fernald, professor of watershed management and director of NM WRRI, and Drs. Salim Bawazir and Zohrab Samani of the Department of Civil Engineering, Water Resource Engineering program at NMSU.

Kevin’s study is part of a larger study by the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) and NMSU in collaboration with the New Mexico Water Science Center, to assess surface and groundwater supplies in an effort to better manage the scarce resources of the region. Study results will inform other projects such as the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (TAAP) and New Mexico Statewide Water Assessment (NM-SWA).

To determine the recharge rate and to test the study’s methodology, Kevin installed several sensors in three alfalfa fields to measure the components of a water budget, which include measurements of the amount of irrigation applied, rainfall, soil moisture, climatological parameters (i.e., ambient temperature, solar radiation, relative humidity, and windspeed and direction), and the amount of water lost by evaporation and transpiration known as evapotranspiration (ET). The data collected from Kevin’s study will also be used in a larger assessment program; for example, to assess the top aquifer boundary layer in groundwater modeling, to verify remote sensing ET models, and to develop plant crop coefficients for irrigation management, among other uses. Kevin anticipates publishing the results of his thesis in 2019.

  January 2019 

  A Dynamic Statewide Water Budget for New Mexico:
  Phase III 
‒ Future Scenario Implementation

  WRRI Technical Completion Report No. 380
  Ken Peterson, Tetra Tech, Inc
  Austin Hanson, New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute
  Jesse Roach, Tetra Tech, Inc.
  Joshua Randall, New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute
  Bruce Thomson, University of New Mexico 

New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute
New Mexico State University
MSC 3167, P.O. Box 30001
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003-8001

(575) 646-4337 email:

NM WRRI Publishes New Mexico’s Dynamic Statewide Water Budget Report
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

With the support of the New Mexico Legislature, the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) was provided funds in fiscal years 15, 16, 17, and 19 to support an initiative that includes a Statewide Water Assessment, intended to complement existing state agency water resources assessments. The New Mexico Dynamic Statewide Water Budget (NMDSWB) model is a tool that brings together the collaborative efforts of the Statewide Water Assessment. The final report for the current phase of the project, A Dynamic Statewide Water Budget for New Mexico: Phase III – Future Scenario Implementation (WRRI Technical Completion Report No. 380), is available here.

The NMDSWB model can be used to account for the origin and fate of New Mexico’s water resources through time, providing a more in-depth understanding of the temporal and spatial distribution of water in the state. This information can help policymakers and water managers make more informed and effective decisions about managing its critical and scarce water resources.

The NMDWSB model is a tool that brings together a suite of hydrologic data such as precipitation, groundwater storage change, surface water conditions, recharge, runoff, evapotranspiration, and crop water use, and compiles the data into a single consistent framework. The NMDSWB model has been used successfully this past year to examine drought patterns by comparing modeled data with the U.S. Drought Monitor index for the 16 water planning regions (WPRs) in New Mexico. A new dataset for evapotranspiration by county, WPR, and river basin (seven major river basins) will be incorporated into the NMDSWB model in 2019. This new dataset is derived from remotely sensed satellite data and transformed into estimates of evapotranspiration by Dr. Gabriel Senay of the U.S. Geological Survey. Additionally, a new data product that estimates land surface recharge and runoff developed by researchers at New Mexico Tech will be incorporated into the NMDSWB model in 2019. These new datasets are state of the art and incorporate the latest technological advances in the earth sciences. By incorporating these new sources of data into the NMDSWB model, the modeled estimates of hydrologic variables in the state will be better constrained and quantified then ever before.

The NMDSWB Beta 2.0 model can be accessed on the NM WRRI website by clicking here (modeled estimates are subject to change). We would greatly appreciated your feedback on this version of the model.

NMSU Graduate Student Studying High School Student Perspectives on Water Issues in Colonias
by Margie R. Vela, Water Science and Management, PhD Candidate and Student Regent, New Mexico State University

In December 2018, I had the pleasure of hosting a visit to NMSU by over 150 students from Canutillo High School; twenty of them presented findings of the research they conducted in their respective communities, providing a closer look at the challenges many residents of colonias (unincorporated communities in the Border Region lacking infrastructure) face daily. The Water and People Project is one component of the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded project titled, Rural Development: Using Photovoice to draw connections between social, built, and human capital for youth living in the colonias of the U.S. Border Region. It aims to discover relationships between water, education, and health for families in the colonias from the perspective of youth.

This project was inspired by UNESCO’s 2006 World Water Report titled Water: A Shared Responsibility, which begins to explain the relationship between water and educational attainment for women in many third world countries. This relationship is one that I found fascinating. As I pondered this idea over a few years, I could not help but wonder if the same dynamic existed in underdeveloped communities in the United States, particularly on the Southern Border. As a high school student, I spent many of my summers volunteering at an orphanage in Anapra, Mexico. I saw how families lived in colonias south of the border, and was compelled to study how families are affected by water in their sister communities, north of the same border. And so, the experiences of a young high schooler and the curiosity of a more mature researcher merged into a successful grant application to the USDA to conduct this study. I was awarded the NIFA Fellowship to conduct the research.

Read entire article by clicking here.

      NMSU graduate student Jason Fechner in the lab working on transferring microbes.

NMSU Graduate Student Investigates the Use of Plants to Remove Contaminants from the Gold King Mine Spill of Wastewater Into the Animas and San Juan Rivers
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Jason Fechner is a graduate student in the NMSU Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. He graduated in May 2018 with a BS in horticulture from NMSU. Jason received a 2018 NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant entitled: Gold King Mine Spill: Contaminant Removal of San Juan County Rivers via Phytoremediation.

The Gold King Mine Spill in 2015 contaminated the Animas and San Juan Rivers with heavy metals that affected multiple states including Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. This event had a tremendous impact on local farmers dependent on the Animas and San Juan Rivers for irrigation of their crops. There are also health concerns related to the plant and aquatic life in and around the contamination sites. Due to these concerns, remediation of these contaminated mining sites and river stretches is a priority issue. The main objective of this project is to explore the use of selected plants and their associated microbes for the removal and/or stabilization of contaminants deposited by the mine spill event. In this effort, Jason is working under the guidance of his faculty sponsors Dr. April Ulery, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Soum Sanogo, Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology, and Weed Science at NMSU.

Read entire article by clicking here.

           Thanchira Suriyamongkol, graduate student from Eastern New Mexico University
           (ENMU) setting traps from a boat on the Black River, NM.

ENMU Graduate Student Uses Grant to Monitor Basking Behavior in Rio Grande River Cooter Along the Black River in New Mexico
by Desiree M. Cooper, ENMU Communication Services

Thanchira Suriyamongkol, a graduate student studying biology at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU), is working on a grant project funded by the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) titled “Monitoring Basking Activity and Assessing Water Conditions in Relation to Basking of Rio Grande Cooters along the Black River.” Her faculty advisor is Dr. Ivana Mali, assistant professor of wildlife biology at ENMU.

The project began in August 2018 and will be completed in August 2019.

Thanchira’s research focuses on monitoring basking behavior in the Rio Grande cooter on the Black River, a tributary of the Rio Grande River located in Eddy County, New Mexico. “Black River is one of the very few locations where this threatened freshwater turtle species occurs in relatively high densities,” explained the graduate student, who studies the turtles’ daily basking activities in relation to environmental conditions, such as ambient temperature and time of day, and seeks to assess seasonality pattern (active period vs. hibernation period).

Read entire article by clicking here.

Meet the Researcher

Adrian Oglesby, Utton Transboundary Resources Center, University of New Mexico
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

In 2014, Adrian Oglesby became the Director of the Utton Transboundary Resources Center at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Housed in the School of Law, the Utton Center is a research and public service program focused on helping New Mexico’s communities and decision-makers find solutions to natural resource management challenges. The Utton Center focuses primarily on water issues but also works on energy, land, food, and governance matters.

After graduating from the Evergreen State College, Adrian worked for consultancies on the assessment and remediation of hundreds of environmentally impacted properties across the country. A few years of chasing diesel plumes motivated Adrian to attend the UNM School of Law. Since graduating in 2000, he has focused on agricultural preservation, river and riparian restoration, efficient water management, governmental accountability, and fish and wildlife conservation. He has provided legal counsel to farmers, tribes, and NGO’s on water and environmental issues in New Mexico and California. He served for eight years on the Board of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. He also served as a Special Assistant Attorney General, representing the Interstate Stream Commission on the Pecos River.

Adrian’s first large project at the Utton Center was co-sponsored by a WRRI faculty research grant that resulted in a report analyzing how New Mexico water laws and policies can better support water resilience, available here. Some of the other projects Adrian has been involved with since joining the Utton Center included advising the Interstate Stream Commission on water planning and developing a comprehensive understanding of Rio Chama management rules for the Bureau of Reclamation. He has served as the Joe M. Stell Adjudications Ombudsman, provided support to UNM’s new Environmental Law Clinic, and has taught Indian Water Law.

Adrian most enjoys his work with Utton Center research assistants. Drawing students from across UNM, the Utton Center regularly employs about fifteen students to work on natural resource issues. These students often get real-world experience by engaging in applied scholarship that supports communities across New Mexico. Many have gone on to develop successful careers working on New Mexico’s natural resources. Students interested in working with the Utton Center can learn more here.

The conference planning committee announces the “Call for Abstracts and Papers” on topics related to the theme of the June 2019 conference, Animas and San Juan Watersheds Conference: Successes and Challenges from Headwaters to Lake Powell. Topics for the upcoming conference include all water quality issues facing the Animas and San Juan Rivers watersheds, starting at the headwaters in the San Juan Mountains, flowing through the San Juan National Forest, past the mixed urban and agricultural valleys from Durango to Shiprock, and through desert canyons across the Navajo Nation into Lake Powell.

Relevant topics include the following:

  • Geology, minerology, ore bodies, and natural sources of heavy metal contamination in the Silverton Caldera
  • Effects of acid mine drainage from hard rock mining, effects of historical spill events including the Gold King Mine spill
  • Superfund cleanup process, and options for additional source control, spill prevention, and remediation
  • Forest health connection to watershed hydrology and river water quality
  • Snowpack, streamflow, and water quality sensitivity to climate change
  • Forest fire impacts, risk, and mitigation
  • Importance of wetland ecosystems to watershed resilience – fens, wet meadows, beaver dams, etc.
  • Impacts of surface water withdrawals
  • Drinking water and wastewater treatment
  • Emerging contaminants – pharmaceuticals, pesticides, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (FPAS)
  • Bacteria and nutrient pollution – sources and remediation
  • Agricultural water quality – needs and impacts
  • Stormwater
  • Ephemeral drainages – hydrology, geology, erosion
  • Impacts of oil and gas development, power plants, coal mining, uranium mining
  • Rangeland and soil health influence on hydrology and water quality
  • Ongoing, real-time and long-term monitoring
  • Monitoring of the aquatic food web as an indicator of water quality
  • Groundwater and surface-water geochemistry and their interaction with the hyporheic zone
  • Sediment monitoring, load, and transport modeling
  • Ephemeral drainages – hydrology, geology, erosion
  • Source water protection and emergency response

Visit the NM WRRI conference website at: for abstract guidelines. All abstracts must be submitted online using the provided abstract form.

Mark Sheely Joins NM WRRI Staff
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

NM WRRI welcomed Mark Sheely to its staff as the new year began. Mark was hired as the institute’s program coordinator, and over the next year he will work primarily on conference planning and on the NMSU-Reclamation Cooperative Agreement that focuses on the development and use of alternative water supplies.

Mark comes to the institute with a background in journalism having completed a BA in journalism from the University of Minnesota in 2012. After receiving his degree, he worked as the host and managing editor of a Minneapolis radio program, Radio K’s Culture Queue. Mark also worked as a production intern in New York on WNYC. For the past three years, Mark taught English in Madrid, Spain.

Mark enjoys hiking, running, and exploring the outdoors of his new home state. He indicates he has a passion for learning languages and that fuels his love of world travel.

“I am excited to join the wonderful team here at NM WRRI. From the first time I visited southern New Mexico five years ago, I fell in love with this state’s natural resources. I look forward to using my experience in media events planning and production to help promote the important work in water studies being done across the state of New Mexico and the borderlands.”

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