New Mexico Water eNews


January 2023

Fall 2022 NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant recipient and ENMU graduate student, Brittany Pulcini.

ENMU Graduate Student Funded to Study Impacts of Drought on River Ecosystems
by Carolina Mijares, NM WRRI Program Manager

Over the past two decades, New Mexico, and many other regions around the globe, have experienced record-breaking drought conditions. Droughts can have severe ecological, economic, and social impacts. Droughts decrease water quantity within rivers, often resulting in the loss of connectivity between aquatic habitats, leaving isolated pools in the streambed. Many organisms often become trapped in these isolated pool habitats and can be subjected to increased abiotic and biotic stressors. Brittany Pulcini, a graduate student at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU), was awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant in the fall of 2022 to investigate some of these stressors.

The awarded project is titled, "Influence of seasonality on the relative importance of abiotic and biotic factors in determining fish survival in isolated pools in New Mexico rivers." Under the guidance of Pulcini's faculty advisor, Dr. Zachary Mitchell, the study aims to obtain more knowledge to understand better the importance of biotic and abiotic factors contributing to New Mexico's aquatic communities. Pulcini states, "abiotic factors, like dissolved oxygen and temperature, are the non-living parts of an ecosystem that help shape the environment. The biotic factors in the study are the living parts in an ecosystem that help shape the environment, such as predators. These factors determine fish survival in isolated pools during periods of reduced stream flow. The study will examine the influence of seasonality and the relative importance of abiotic and biotic stressors of fish communities in isolated pools." Findings could indicate that abiotic and biotic stressors lead to increased mortality rates and shifts within riverine communities and a loss in essential ecosystem functions provided by these organisms.

Pulcini will study areas along the Pecos River to increase her understanding of how seasonality affects stream flow. Pulcini hopes this study will help ecologists, biologists, and water managers in New Mexico better respond to New Mexico's fish supply needs.

Originally from Tucumcari, New Mexico, Brittany is attending ENMU and plans to graduate with a master's in biology in May of 2024. After graduation, Brittany plans to work for a zoo or an aquarium specializing in the conservation and management of declining species. She aims to inform the public about conservation and its importance in everyday life.

Meet the Researcher

Huidae Cho, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University
by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Huidae Cho is an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at New Mexico State University (NMSU). He specializes in the application of GIS to water resources engineering, hydrologic modeling, and software development. He will teach Open Channel Hydraulics in the spring of 2023.

Dr. Cho currently mentors a PhD candidate in the College of Engineering (Civil Engineering Department) and a master’s student from the Water Science and Management Graduate Degree Program (WSM) at NMSU. The WSM program (Chaired by Dr. Sam Fernald, Director of NM WRRI) provides support and education to students investigating water resources within and beyond New Mexico.

Dr. Cho recently collaborated with NM WRRI on a National Science Foundation proposal last year that, if funded, will allow him to work on a Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to develop surface and groundwater indices to achieve the broader water management goals of the project. Dr. Cho has expressed an interest in further working with NM WRRI on hydrologic modeling, optimization, and uncertainty analysis by incorporating remote sensing data, digital image processing, and meta-heuristic algorithms. He hopes his computing and software development skills will assist the Institute and many other collaborators in additional partnership opportunities.

One of Dr. Cho’s essential objectives in his research is incorporating modern computational power and big data into water resources research to take advantage of advances in remote and onsite sensing and network technologies. “We are now living in an era of big data, but managing and making sense of such data has been challenging in non-computer-science fields,” Dr. Cho explains. He has made it his goal to converge information generated onsite with data being studied in the lab. To strengthen his pre-existing computational hydrology research, Dr. Cho is currently working on creating a fast flow accumulation algorithm for large watersheds using parallel computing. He mentions that this area of research is essential because the spatiotemporal resolution of terrain data vastly increases as high-resolution aerial and satellite sensor data are added, thus needing an effective method that can be used to collect and analyze it.

Read entire article by clicking here.

Researchers from the USDA-funded ‘Secure Water Future’ project pause from collaboration sessions for a picture at UC Berkeley, Jan. 6, 2023. Photo courtesy of Fisher Qua.

NM WRRI and NMSU Researchers Attend ‘Secure Water Future’ Project Team Meeting in Berkeley, California
by Robert Sabie, Jr., NM WRRI Research Scientist

After working in a virtual environment for nearly two years on the US Department of Agriculture-funded project, Secure Water Future, researchers from NM WRRI and NMSU joined their counterparts from UC Merced, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Utah State, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Public Policy Institute of California for a two-day in-person project team meeting. The meeting took place on the campus of UC Berkeley from January 5 through January 7. The main purpose of the meeting was to build stronger collaborations and coordination between researchers at the different research sites in three states working across four main research thrusts at three spatial scales (region, district, and farm). The research thrusts include climate integration, markets, management, and measurement with education and outreach as overarching activities to achieve the goal of understanding, enabling, and envisioning water management strategies for agricultural and ecological systems in the Southwest. The research is important for New Mexico, as water managers and researchers work together to find innovative solutions to sustain agriculture in times of continued water scarcity.

Several main outcomes resulted from the meeting. The primary outcome was a greater connection between team members, which is necessary to build trust, align individual goals with project goals, and integrate the broad depth of knowledge each team member brings to the project. Progress was made in envisioning the utility of Water 3D, the web-based tool being developed for the project. Another outcome was an outline of project deliverables for year 2 of the project, which will include numerous publications, presentations, and the development of an educational game to teach about the impacts of water management decisions.

Although only a subset of the team was able to attend, the entire project team includes over 70 researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, and support staff.

The team will convene again July 17-19 in Denver for the American Water Resources Association meeting to present the most recent results of the research.

NM WRRI, NMED Co-host Early Input Workshop for the New Mexico Nonpoint Source Management Plan
by Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Specialist

The majority of surface water quality problems identified in New Mexico are caused by nonpoint source (NPS) water pollution1. As the runoff from rainfall and snowmelt moves over and through the ground, it picks up natural and human-caused pollutants and deposits them into rivers, lakes, wetlands, and groundwater. Section 319 of the federal Clean Water Act requires states to assess NPS pollution and develop management programs to control the sources identified.

The NPS Management Program helps New Mexico meet its surface water quality standards to protect designated uses and groundwater quality for municipal, domestic, and agricultural uses. To this end, according to the most recent NPS Management Plan from 2019, “the NPS Management Program emphasizes watershed-based planning as a means of coordinating watershed restoration efforts, fostering watershed associations, and encouraging partnership among agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the public.”

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI), in cooperation with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), hosted a virtual interactive workshop on January 18 to discuss and provide input to update the New Mexico NPS Management Program. Ninety participants from numerous agencies and organizations attended the workshop to provide input that will inform the revision of New Mexico’s program for managing NPS pollution, which is being undertaken by NMED’s Surface Water Quality Bureau. Throughout the day-long virtual workshop, attendees discussed the current NPS Management Plan, heard presentations on new NPS management initiatives, and participated in a series of breakout group discussions and interactive polling exercises.

Leading the facilitation of the workshop were NM WRRI contractor and natural resources consultant Nikki Dictson and NMED Watershed Protection Section manager Abe Franklin. Additional breakout facilitation and virtual whiteboard notetaking were provided by staff from NMED, NM WRRI, and volunteers from other agencies with NPS management activities. By engaging in the breakout and polling exercises, workshop participants helped to identify and rank existing and potential new activities NMED could build upon and implement into the next NPS management plan.

The input from the workshop will be compiled into a report and provided to workshop participants for comment.


1New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission. 2018. 2018-2020 State of New Mexico Clean Water Act §303(d)/§305(b) Integrated Report.

Transboundary Groundwater Resilience:
Demystifying Data and Developing Future Leaders Panel Series Event Happening Tomorrow February 1, 2023!

by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Please join us tomorrow on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, from 9-11am MT to participate in the Transboundary Groundwater Resilience (TGR) Panel Series: Demystifying Data and Developing Future Leaders Event.

This interactive workshop will consist of two panels over a two-hour session. The first panel, Demystifying Data to Enable Community Action, will host experts from the TGR Network of Networks branches of water, social, data and systems science. The second panel, Career Development, will also feature leading researchers from the TGR Network of Networks, who will answer pre-determined questions from students. Presentations will be held by UC San Diego Supercomputer Center, The Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences, Inc., International Standards and Sustainability Board, California State Water Resources Control Board, Boğaziçi University, and Water Cycle Innovation.

Register Here!
Apply here!
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