New Mexico Water eNews


March 2015

Photo Courtesy of New Mexico First. Sam Fernald, NM WRRI (left) and John D'Antonio,
U.S. Corps of Engineers (right)

Director Sam Fernald Announces Monthly News Feature

I am pleased to introduce a new feature from the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, the New Mexico Water eNews, an email monthly news feed to keep you informed on the latest water topics, emphasizing those in which the NM WRRI is involved. You will see in this inaugural issue pieces about: research at New Mexico universities sponsored by NM WRRI, an emeritus researcher who attended the launching of a new satellite carrying remote sensing instruments that make use of his research contributions, cutting-edge imagery analysis, exciting developments with our dynamic statewide water budget, student research around our state, and work on access to new data streams. Future NM Water eNews issues will include research at New Mexico’s universities, grant opportunities, new innovative water science, border and international projects, water events, and water outreach. We welcome contributions regarding water research in New Mexico.

I would also like to give you an update on developments at the New Mexico Legislature. We currently are seeking funding from the NM Legislature through Senate Bill 156 sponsored by Senator Mary Kay Papen, who led the effort last year to successfully secure increased funding for NM WRRI. There is also a House version of the same bill, HB 234, sponsored by Representative Terry McMillan. Both bills passed through committee and now are in the budget process. We thank the legislators for their efforts, and look forward to providing a positive update next month. With the one-time funding provided last year to NM WRRI by the New Mexico Legislature with support from the Governor, we are making great strides with our Statewide Water Assessment, pulling together new water information that will allow planners and decision makers to connect the dots from research to policy with scenarios for sustainable water futures.

This news feed will augment the institute’s newsletter, Divining Rod, which has been published since 1977. Your suggestions and comments on our new NM Water eNews are welcome at any time.

Framework designed by Jesse Roach

NM Dynamic Statewide Water Budget (DSWB)
by Ken Peterson, NM WRRI Program Specialist

As part of the NM WRRI Statewide Water Assessment, and supported by the National Science Foundation's EPSCoR Energize New Mexico grant, a group of researchers led by Jesse Roach of Tetra Tech and Ken Peterson from NM WRRI are working on developing a dynamic statewide water budget. New Mexico has long been without a comprehensive water budget and this dynamic statewide water budget will be an essential tool for water resource management and planning for New Mexico as a whole. The Dynamic Statewide Water Budget is built on a conceptual mass balance structure that is being used to organize water supply and water-use data throughout time, in association with the state’s 33 counties, 16 Office of the State Engineer-Interstate Stream Commission’s (OSE-ISC) water planning regions, and/or 6 statewide OSE-ISC river basins. This conceptual model includes eight external fluxes (to or from outside each mass balance unit), seven internal fluxes (exchange between stocks within each mass balance unit), and four stocks: available surface water, land surface, groundwater, and human storage and distribution systems.

The Dynamic Statewide Water Budget will synthesize water supply and demand information from across the state into a single, easily accessible location, and in such a way that users can view information at a variety of spatial scales. The overall objective of the Dynamic Statewide Water Budget is to provide a holistic view of water resources that can then be tied into larger energy, environment, and socioeconomic models. It will also help support local and regional education and improve stewardship of New Mexico’s limited and critically important water resources.

NM Highlands University Student Studies Bacteria
in Gallinas River

Biology graduate student Laurel Carr is conducting research to help determine how much impact humans and livestock have on bacteria in the Gallinas River, the primary water supply for Las Vegas. Laurel is one of 16 recipients of an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant. Her research advisor is Dr. Ben Nelson of NMHU’s Biology Department.

Laurel’s research will shed new light on antibiotic-resistant bacteria that occur naturally in untouched environments like the Gallinas River headwaters in the Pecos Wilderness. Baseline data are lacking for these kinds of bacteria from natural areas, and Carr’s is the first such study of the Gallinas. Laurel will present her research findings in a final report to the NM WRRI in June 2015. She will share her results with the City of Las Vegas.

Laurel received an undergraduate degree from NMHU and plans to pursue medical school after completing a master’s degree in biology. According to Carr, “My graduate research is broadening my knowledge about the use of antibiotics in the medical field.” (Excerpted from an article by Margaret McKinney, Highlands University; photo by Margaret McKinney).

2014 NAIP images of healthy vegetation in a built-up environment shown in natural color (left) and color infrared (right)

NM WRRI Procures High-Resolution Aerial Imagery
by Robert Sabie, Jr., NM WRRI Research Assistant

The National Agriculture Imagery Program, or more commonly referred to as NAIP, acquires high spatial resolution (1x1 meter pixels) imagery for the entire conterminous United States on a three-year or less cycle. The imagery is adjusted to account for topography and goes through a rigorous evaluation to ensure that features in the images are accurately located within 6 meters of their true geographic position. Four-band spectral resolution (red, green, blue, and near-infrared) provides the capability to view the images in natural color or color infrared.

High resolution imagery for New Mexico is available from a few sources and for multiple years and is often free of charge. New Mexico NAIP imagery is available through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Aerial Photography Field Office as a partial coverage of the state in 2006 and the entire state for the years 2009, 2011, and 2014. NM WRRI previously procured the 2009 NAIP imagery for the entire state and, in December of 2014, added the most recent series of NAIP imagery.

The original purpose of NAIP was to assist with farm programs. However, the imagery has become a valuable resource for research in other fields of study, such as water resources. Researchers at NM WRRI have been using the NAIP imagery for the purpose of classifying land use and digitizing features. The detail in the imagery can provide researchers useful information on areas that are inaccessible for field work. In some instances, vegetation health, which can also be a proxy for water availability, can be assessed by harnessing the imagery’s near-infrared band and the high near-infrared reflectance properties of healthy vegetation. One goal is to make the imagery available for download to the public after the new NM WRRI server is completed sometime later this year.

UNM Student Studying the Effects of the Las Conchas Fire on Aquatic Ecosystems

Virginia Thompson is busy analyzing field-collected samples of SAMs (submerged aquatic macrophytes) in the UNM BioAnnex Analytical Chemistry Lab. A PhD candidate in UNM’s Biology Department, Virginia collected samples of SAMs in the East Fork Jemez River, an important headwater area for the Rio Grande in central New Mexico. She is studying the impacts of the catastrophic 2011 Las Conchas fire on nutritional content of SAMs. Under the guidance of UNM faculty advisor, Dr. Clifford Dahm, Virginia received a NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant for the research.

Understanding the effects of catastrophic forest fires on the growth and composition of SAMs will provide valuable new information on the recovery of these key components of primary production and respiration in mountain headwater streams of New Mexico. Since water quality is of great concern for downstream surface water users and water managers, many will be interested in her results including the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority, US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, private land managers, the Valles Caldera National Preserve staff, and the NM Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Virginia presented her research at the NM WRRI 59th Annual New Mexico Water Conference in November 2014. She has two manuscripts on the study in preparation along with her dissertation, which will focus on SAMs in mountain streams. The final report for this project will be available on the NM WRRI website July 1, 2015.

Statewide Water Assessment Database
by Fereshteh Soltani, NM WRRI Research Assistant

Our project goal is to build a data warehouse of decision-support technologies associated with the New Mexico Statewide Water Assessment, a new NM WRRI-led initiative to develop a comprehensive water budget for water resource management and planning in New Mexico. The data warehouse will help us organize and analyze information to make data-based water resource management decisions. For this project, we are using a Microsoft SQL Server to manage and integrate large volumes of data, and to build structured queries based on end-user requirements, allowing for data aggregation over a user specified area and time period. To do this, we need to build a data warehouse that includes queries to respond to end-user needs.

Currently, we are working on importing a PRISM dataset into a MS SQL server, through the use of ArcSde software, which allows for the management of geospatial data within the SQL Server. The PRISM dataset provides spatially gridded estimates of precipitation as well as minimum, maximum, and mean temperature, at a monthly time-step. In addition to the PRISM dataset, we plan to host within the data warehouse a suite of other hydrologic datasets including, but not limited to, groundwater recharge estimates, changes in groundwater storage, and various measures of evapotranspiration. The project is expected to take about four more years to be fully functional, depending on funding. One of our main objectives is to provide a level of detail to the end-user that is relevant to that specific end-user. This will allow researchers and scientists to access raw data, and will also allow the general public to access water resource data that are relevant and meaningful to them.

Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Satellite is On a Three-Year Mission to Map the Moisture Levels in Topsoil

Tom Schmugge, NM WRRI’s Physical Scientist Volunteer, was invited to attend the launching of a Delta 2 rocket that carried the SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) satellite into space. The rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on January 31, 2015. The satellite is on a three-year mission to map the moisture levels in topsoil around the world to help scientists better predict droughts, floods, and other weather factors.

Dr. Schmugge was invited to the launch because he is one of the pioneers on the use of microwave sensors to remotely sense soil moisture. He started on this work in the early 70's, and the basic understanding of the relation between the microwave response and soil moisture was achieved by the early 80's. However, it took several decades before this could be translated into providing useful information for hydrologic and atmospheric models. The Europeans launched their soil moisture satellite, SMOS, (Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity) in 2009 and have been collecting data globally for the past five years. The NM WRRI has obtained these data for the state of New Mexico and will analyze them to determine how they might help with the Statewide Water Assessment. Dr. Schmugge is working with colleagues from around the state on the development of the water assessment. He has many years of experience on microwave and thermal infrared remote sensing to study hydrologic processes.

Copyright © 2015 New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, All rights reserved.
eNews design by Peggy S. Risner


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