New Mexico Water eNews


November 2016

ENMU faculty member Dr. Kristin Waldo presented a poster on the relationship between water discourse and water use at NM WRRI’s recent annual water conference.

Meet the Researcher

Kristin Waldo, Eastern New Mexico University
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Critical water issues are not new to Kristin Waldo, Assistant Professor of Sociology at ENMU, who has lived in various locations around the world, including Western Australia, where potable water is scarce. Cultural resistance to the critical issues caused by anthropogenic climate change has strengthened her resolve to engage in cross-disciplinary research between sociology and the physical sciences. Dr. Waldo emphasizes that it is through collaboration that cultural resistance can be more successfully addressed.

Waldo comes to New Mexico from Oklahoma State University, where she received her PhD in sociology in 2013. While in Oklahoma, she conducted research in the area of environmental sociology, investigating the interaction between corporate communication strategies, power, and risk definition, focusing in particular on the controversy arising over coal-fired versus natural gas electric generation in Oklahoma. The article, “Know(ing) Your Power: Risk Society, Astroturf Campaigns and the Battle Over the Red Rock Coal-fired Plant,” co-authored with Dr. Tamara Mix of OSU, was published recently in The Sociological Quarterly  (2015: 56(1): 125-151).

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During the summer of 2016, James Fluke took surface water grab samples in the Jemez Mountains as part of his study to model nutrient processing in stream-bed sediments. James is from Bernalillo and is working on a master’s degree in civil engineering at UNM.

E. coli Bacteria Found Along the Rio Grande Near Albuquerque is Focus of Student Research
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers the Rio Grande near Albuquerque between the Angostura and Isleta diversions, a reach of over 30 miles, to be impaired by E. coli bacteria. University of New Mexico civil engineering master’s degree student James Fluke has received an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to study the contamination, and will work under the guidance of his faculty advisor, Dr. Ricardo González-Pinzón, also of UNM’s Department of Civil Engineering.

According to the researchers, E. coli bacteria concentrations exceed water quality standards in this reach year-long, with dramatic exceedances typically July through August. Although most E. coli are not pathogenic, these bacteria are considered an indicator of pathogenic fecal coliforms that can cause serious illness in exposed humans and animals.

From 2000-2010, about $20 million was spent on projects resulting in cleaner urban runoff to protect human health and the environment. Despite this effort, bacterial contamination has not been reduced in the Rio Grande. It is still not known which sources contribute most significantly to bacterial loads and how these sources vary seasonally. Current EPA specifications acknowledge, but do not take into account, the potential for bacterial regrowth in surface water and streambed sediments to contribute bacterial loads, contributing to summer exceedances.

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The Rio Grande valley in southern New Mexico, from the left is the Elephant Butte Reservoir and to the right, downstream, are the Mesilla Valley and the borders with Texas and Mexico. The red outline is the Rincon Arroyo watershed, which drains to the town of Rincon in the Rio Grande valley. Google Earth imagery. ( Click here for larger view.)

Can an Innovative Strategy of Flood Control on Ranching and Farming Lands Begin to Refill Our Aquifers?
by Connie Maxwell, NMSU Water Science & Management Graduate Student

In New Mexico, what underlies both drought and increased flooding as social crises is a water storage problem. Less winter precipitation has diminished snowpacks and the resulting spring runoff. Reduced soil infiltration capacity coupled with increased precipitation intensity has increased catastrophic flooding. As federal agencies such as the Bureau of Reclamation confront new water supply challenges due to climate change and western drought, alternative water management strategies that replenish groundwater storage systems are becoming increasingly important.

While agriculture often withdraws the largest water quantities, “working landscapes”—farming and ranching lands—also have the largest access to floodplain areas that can recharge aquifers, and the incentives to do so. A study by Connie Maxwell, a PhD student in the NMSU Water Science and Management program, hypothesizes that agriculture as a system for recharge and flood control can increase water availability over the long term as compared to current land management scenarios. She is focusing on an upper and lower region in the New Mexico Rio Grande basin, the Taos area, and Mesilla/Rincon aquifers, where she will estimate existing aquifer storage resulting from agricultural lands to provide a base comparison against scenarios of alternative land management practices.

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Urban waterbodies in Metro Manila are severely polluted and need urgent action.

NMSU Graduate Publishes Paper on Sustainable Urban Water Environments in Southeast Asia
by Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

The second student to graduate from NMSU’s Water Science Management program in May 2014, Dr. Shokhrukh-Mirzo Jalilov has written an article that will appear in November in the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability Policy Brief (No. 7, 2016). The article is entitled, “Sustainable Urban Water Environments in Southeast Asia: Addressing the Pollution of Urban Waterbodies in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Viet Nam.” Dr. Jalilov is currently on a post-doc appointment at the United Nations University in Tokyo.

Dr. Jalilov summarizes his research in the Highlights section of the article as follows.


Water resources in Southeast Asia are under intense pressure because of population growth, urbanisation, and climate change. Rapid economic development and urbanisation have resulted in degradation and depletion of natural resources, including water and related ecosystem services. Many urban rivers in the region are highly polluted with domestic, industrial and agricultural waste. To tackle this issue and to foster an effective approach for sustainable urban development, policymakers in collaboration with the private sector and the international donor community must:

•adopt an integrated approach for protecting urban waterbodies,    including by developing relevant legal frameworks and enforce-    ment mechanisms

•initiate comprehensive studies on valuation of water-related  benefits. The monetary value of water quality improvements is a  useful variable in cost-benefit analyses of water quality-related  policies, in both the public and  private sectors

•promote public awareness campaigns, education, and trans-  parency through public outreach and education programs


NM Tech Hydrology Graduate Heads to Montana
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

David Ketchum of New Mexico Tech will graduate with a master’s degree in hydrology in December. His hydrology work has focused on simulating the statewide soil-water balance in New Mexico using high resolution remote sensing inputs. David has been part of the groundwater recharge study team working on NM WRRI’s Statewide Water Assessment initiative along with recently retired NM Tech Professor Fred Phillips and Dr. Talon Newton, NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources hydrogeologist.

David’s impressive graduate career included receiving an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant in 2016. At this year’s 61st Annual New Mexico Water Conference, David gave a well-received presentation entitled, Using Chloride Mass Balance to Qualify Groundwater Recharge in the Mountains of New Mexico. Dr. Newton recently said, “David is talented individual, and it was a pleasure to work with him. He played a major role in laying down the groundwork for a groundwater recharge model that we hope will help the state of New Mexico to better understand our water budget." Professor Phillips added, “David has made a significant advance in the science of quantifying groundwater recharge, programming a sophisticated, physically based model that can still be calibrated using readily available data. The model runs at unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution for a statewide simulation, yet still runs efficiently on modest computers."

David is a native of Bradford, Vermont and did his undergraduate work in geography at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, with a focus on natural resource management. After working as a nature guide in Chile for six years, he returned to study hydrology at NM Tech. David is bound for Montana, where he will join the State Water Bureau and begin a remote sensing program focused on estimating irrigation requirements and crop water consumption. We wish David well as he embarks on his next adventure.

Former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman presented the 2016 Albert E. Utton Memorial Water Lecture at NM WRRI’s 61st Annual New Mexico Water Conference.

Senator Bingaman Addresses Western Water Management
by Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

The historic Murray Hotel in downtown Silver City served as a fitting venue for former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman to present the 2016 Albert E. Utton Memorial Water Lecture. In opening comments, Senator Bingaman reminisced about growing up in Silver City and attending high school dances in the very ballroom where he was honoring the memory of the late Albert E. Utton by presenting a talk entitled “Rethinking Western Water Management.” The lecture was presented during a luncheon at NM WRRI’s annual water conference held in early October.

Over 160 conference participants attended the luncheon talk by Senator Bingaman. Norm Gaume, former NM Interstate Stream Commission Director, noted, “Senator Bingaman’s insightful, concise remarks deserve wide circulation. I believe they provide a meaningful basis to address critical Middle Rio Grande water management issues.” In his remarks, Senator Bingaman discussed three basic questions: 1) What are our water policy objectives in the West? 2) How well are our current laws and policies designed to achieve those objectives? 3) How can we do better?

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