Wednesday, August 31, 2016


NEW MEXICO STATE ENGINEER ENDORSES EFFORTS OF A GROUNDWATER USERS GROUP IN THE LOWER RIO GRANDE TO SOLVE CRITICAL WATER MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES Texas’ lawsuit over water deliveries from New Mexico and Colorado, persistent water supply and demand stresses and the desire to sustain the quality of life enjoyed by so many southern New Mexicans, has brought together some unlikely allies who are trying to adopt groundwater management policies to address these challenges. In order to move this effort forward, the New Mexico State Engineer, Mr. Tom Blaine met recently with representatives of the Lower Rio Grande Water Users (the “Water Users”) to discuss ways to implement a plan to better manage water resources and resolve pending disputes over the use of water in the Lower Rio Grande basin. The plan, known as the Settlement Framework, was recently adopted by the Water Users whose members include the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Pecan Growers Association, Southern Rio Grande Diversified Crop Farmers Association, Public Service Company of New Mexico and Camino Real Regional Utility Authority. Also attending the planning session were representatives of the Water Resource Research Institute (WRRI), which is a state wide consortium for water research, education and outreach based at New Mexico State University. The Settlement Framework is an agreement amongst users of around 90% of the groundwater in the Lower Rio Grande. The group believes the core elements needed to advance sustainable management of groundwater in the LRG are: 1. Adopt revisions to the 2008 Operating Agreement for the Rio Grande Project in a form acceptable to both the current parties to the Agreement and to the Water Users. 2. Manage groundwater to (1) protect Rio Grande project supplies, (2) protect the rights of senior groundwater users, (3) implement adaptive management techniques for groundwater to assure sustainable and resilient supplies, and (4) establish mechanisms for flexible and rapid changes in the use of water. 3. Establish methods for measuring, managing or offsetting surface or river water depletions not covered by the current Operating Agreement, such as municipal and industrial users like cities, universities, power plants and mutual domestics, where needed. 4. Secure agreement that senior water right holders such as farmers, City of Las Cruces and New Mexico State University not seek priority enforcement against one another. The Water Users say they are committed to this effort and will continue to meet regularly with the State Engineer to evaluate progress and implement the Settlement Framework.

Workshop on Use of Alternative Water Held in Las Cruces

By Ashley Page, NMSU Graduate Student Assistant NM WRRI hosted a two-day workshop on August 15-16, 2016 for the New Mexico State University–Bureau of Reclamation collaborative partnership on Research for the Development and Use of Alternative Water Supplies. The project aims to increase knowledge and research expertise regarding alternative water supplies. Researchers and community stakeholders attended the workshop to determine a pertinent path for the partnership. The first day of the meeting engaged currently funded researchers and potential researchers. New Mexico State University researchers Drs. Pei Xu, Catherine Brewer, and Reza Foudazi presented updates on their funded projects. The collaborative partnership’s technical advisors from the Bureau of Reclamation discussed their research expertise and current work. Additional speakers included Yuliana Porras-Mendoza, Advanced Water Treatment Coordinator from Reclamation; Terry Lombard, Director of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer from NMSU’s Arrowhead Center; and Dr. Vince Tidwell, Principle Member of the Technical Staff from Sandia National Laboratories. Community stakeholders interested in brackish groundwater desalination attended the second day of the workshop. Participants shared their needs and concerns related to these technologies. The insight they provided will help the collaborative partnership ensure that its continued work meets the needs of the Mesilla Valley. The workshop concluded with a tour of the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, NM. Randy Shaw, the site’s Facility Manager, led the group in a presentation and walking tour.

NM WRRI Welcomes Water Policy Analyst Post-Doc

y Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager María Milanés-Murcia, a native of Madrid, Spain recently joined the NM WRRI. She is currently working on several institute initiatives including the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (a federally funded project that is characterizing aquifers along the US-Mexico border) and the New Mexico Statewide Water Assessment (a state funded project that will provide water budget components for the entire state such as evapotranspiration, crop consumptive use, groundwater recharge, and streamflow). María is also working on identifying water banking policies that could potentially be implemented in New Mexico. She will analyze current water law in order to develop potential water polices that could be implemented at the local level while protecting the interests of individual stakeholders. María will also study the development of conjunctive management policies for surface water and groundwater use in New Mexico. Such policies try to take into account the natural hydrologic connection between surface and groundwater. She will focus on a conjunctive management approach through water banking and water markets that allows for flexibility of water use while enabling an accurate and adequate water-right transfer process. María is familiar with New Mexico having received a master’s degree in economics with a focus on environmental economics from NMSU. She also holds LLM and JSD degrees in international water resource law with an emphasis on irrigation management, water markets, climate change, and mitigation policies from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, California. She also has an LLB from the University of Murcia, Spain. She has provided legal advice to governments, intergovernmental organizations, and NGOs for over ten years. Her research has focused on transboundary rivers, wetlands, land, water, fisheries, plants, animals, food, forestry, wildlife, national parks, climate change, international water issues, environment, and biodiversity. Having worked in North and South Sudan, Uruguay, Costa Rica, and the Middle East, María has vast international experience. When asked about what she would like to accomplish while at NM WRRI, María responded, “I would like to contribute to the future of New Mexico through my research, which I hope will lead to the development of policies that can be implemented to help improve people’s lives throughout the state.”

New Mexico Water Budget Model Undergoes Refinement

By Joshua Randall, NM WRRI Program Specialist As part of the Statewide Water Assessment, NM WRRI, Tetra Tech, UNM, and other affiliates have completed the first version of the Dynamic Statewide Water Budget Model (DSWBM) for New Mexico. This is an effort to account for the origin and fate of New Mexico’s water resources through time. Public access to the model will be available in the near future. Users will be able to set the model to run for any time period from January 1975 to December 2010 in monthly increments, and for any of four spatial resolutions: state, water planning region, river basin, and county. The main goal of the DSWBM is to provide a consolidated account of all of the historical trends and to forecast future trends of New Mexico’s water resources in an easily accessible format. The model is designed to incorporate all water in New Mexico at any given time. This is done through the use of “stocks” and “flows.” Stocks are the given amount of water in one area at a time. Flows are the movement of water between these stocks. Four stocks are used in the model: the land surface (includes moisture in vegetation, etc.), surface water (rivers and streams), human storage (irrigation canals, reservoirs), and groundwater. Because groundwater totals are largely unknown, the model estimates the change for a given time period. There are 16 fluxes that represent the change between these stocks and within the system and change in and out of the system. Ten of these are calculated from outside data, independent of any other flux. Four are closure terms and are calculated as differences between certain stocks and fluxes. The last two are groundwater fluxes, considered to be zero at all levels. Outside data used in the model includes PRISM (PRISM 2014), NM-OSE water use reports (Longworth et al. 2005, Longworth et al. 2010), U.S. Geological Survey gage data and USGS groundwater reports (2015), and data produced from other parts of the Statewide Water Assessment project. The ability to choose any spatial area for any time period (1975-2010) in a timely manner makes this tool very flexible. It allows for quick comparison to other research as well as providing baseline calculations for water changes in New Mexico. The model will also be openly available for use to anyone. Moving forward there will be continual improvements made for enhancing the functionality of the online model for the user, including information for each flux and stock as well as improved data visualization options. The project is transitioning into year three and will begin to incorporate scenario projections into the model for future water estimates. Project collaborators include Jessie Roach (PE, PhD) and Ken Peterson (MS), Tetra Tech Inc.; Bruce Thomson (PhD), UNM; Vince Tidwell (PhD), Sandia National Laboratories, and Joshua Randall (MS), NM WRRI. Citations: Longworth, J. W., Valdez, J. M., Magnuson, M. L., & Richard, K. (2013). New Mexico Water Use by Categories 2010. New Mexico State Engineer. Longworth, J. W., Valdez, J. M., Magnuson, M. L., Sims, A., Elisa, J., & Keller, J. (2008). New Mexico Water Use by Categories 2005. New Mexico State Engineer. Prism Climate Group. (2014). Oregon State University. Retrieved from USGS. (2015). USGS Water Data for USA. Retrieved from

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Surface Water Quality Bureau Point Source Regulation Section Update

________________________________________ Regular registration is currently open until September 15 for the 18th Annual EPA Region 6 Stormwater Conference . Late registration begins September 16. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6, in partnership with Texas A&M University in Kingsville, the City of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s), and States in Region 6, is hosting the 18th Annual EPA Region 6 Stormwater Conference on October 2 – 6, 2016 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This conference will address and discuss the various issues and challenges of managing municipal stormwater, as well as new and upcoming rules and regulations. With the registration, attendees will be able to attend the Early Bird Workshops and Stormwater 101 classes on Monday, the EPA Region 6 Outstanding GI/LID Project Competition, the field trips and inspection site visits, the general panels, and all presentations from Monday through Thursday. The draft agenda and conference information is available online. In addition, EPA Region 6 invites all municipal and private practitioners and students implementing Green Infrastructure (GI)/ Low Impact Development (LID) projects within Region 6 to participate in its third Annual GI/LID Project Competition on to be held during the 2016 EPA Region 6 Stormwater Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, October 2-6, 2016. Competition information is available online. ________________________________________ POINT SOURCE REGULATION SECTION CONTACT: Sarah Holcomb

Water worries making waves By Lauren Villagran / Journal Staff Writer - Las Cruces Bureau Published: Monday, August 22nd, 2016 at 12:02am Updated: Monday, August 22nd, 2016 at 8:32am

SANTA TERESA – Beneath the growing industrial development, under the homes sprouting at the urban edge of West Texas, below the often-dry Rio Grande, sits an immense hydrogeologic bowl that water experts say contains more water than the region may ever need – a seductive claim in the desert. Now read the fine print: Only the top skim across much of the resource known as the Mesilla Bolson is fresh water, and experts say that the “good” water could be gone in a decade or so. The rest is brackish, according to John Hawley, an independent hydrogeologist who has been studying the region since the 1960s, “an incredible amount of old water that dates back to the Ice Age that is optimum for desalination.” The demands on this interconnected system of surface water and groundwater in the Mesilla Bolson are growing year by year from the three jurisdictions atop it: New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. h Las Cruces on Aug. 18. The Rio Grande will flow just 75 days this summer. (Andres Leighton / For The Albuquerque Journal) SANTA TERESA – Beneath the growing industrial development, under the homes sprouting at the urban edge of West Texas, below the often-dry Rio Grande, sits an immense hydrogeologic bowl that water experts say contains more water than the region may ever need – a seductive claim in the desert. Now read the fine print: Only the top skim across much of the resource known as the Mesilla Bolson is fresh water, and experts say that the “good” water could be gone in a decade or so. The rest is brackish, according to John Hawley, an independent hydrogeologist who has been studying the region since the 1960s, “an incredible amount of old water that dates back to the Ice Age that is optimum for desalination.” The demands on this interconnected system of surface water and groundwater in the Mesilla Bolson are growing year by year from the three jurisdictions atop it: New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. Advertisement Regional water experts say the freshwater cap could turn increasingly salty within 10 to 15 years and, at a minimum, that amount of time would be needed to plan and build a desalination plant that could turn the brackish resource into potable water. But Santa Teresa business leaders say those estimates may be based on inaccurate, inflated growth projections and that there is enough fresh water to fuel plans for slow-but-steady growth over the next two decades. A desalination plant – which could cost tens of millions of dollars – will only be financially feasible when there are enough customers to pay for it, they say. “It looks like to me that the problem is a 10-year to 12-year problem, not a 30-year problem because it’s an aquifer that is being utilized both by Texas and by Mexico,” said Mike Hightower, a Sandia National Laboratories civil engineer who studies water as a national-security and environmental-sustainability issue. “Without the agreements in place to manage that, you’re going to end up with somebody inappropriately withdrawing all the fresh water. These current wells that may not be projected to become brackish for 30 years down the road could become brackish in half the time.” The urgency, experts say, could be exacerbated by a Special Master’s recommendation that the U.S. Supreme Court side with Texas and the U.S. in their claim that groundwater pumping in southern New Mexico is depleting the Rio Grande of water that belongs to Texas. If the court accepts the recommendation, the case will proceed. “Water is of supreme concern to everybody because we live in a desert,” said Jerry Pacheco, president of the Santa Teresa-based Border Industrial Association. “Given the projections we have created for the next 20 years, if the growth projections are correct, we have enough water rights to be able to service that. As to what the Supreme Court case does to everybody, it’s really up in the air.” The Camino Real Regional Utility Authority, which delivers water to municipal and industrial customers in Santa Teresa and Sunland Park, is “primarily focused on day-to-day operations,” said Executive Director Brent Westmoreland, who added that with regard to desalination, “There will be a time when CRUUA will be faced with that issue.” Elephant Butte Irrigation District groundwater resource manager Erek Fuchs summed up local irrigators’ concerns about growth in Santa Teresa and Sunland Park. “When they drill new wells, and as additional industry, residential and related actvity occurs down there,” he said, “then the groundwater pumping to service that demand is going to affect the river.” Agricultural interests – the chile and onion fields of Hatch and sprawling pecan orchards of the Mesilla Valley – are the largest users of river water, drawing 100 percent of the total Rio Grande water consumed in southern New Mexico, according to Phil King, a professor of civil engineering at New Mexico State University. EBID favors a desalination plant in southern Doña Ana County but doesn’t want to take the lead, Fuchs said. But is there enough water for all the new development? “Not without impairing somebody else,” he said. The competing interests for surface water and groundwater don’t just pit New Mexico against Texas and Mexico; it’s farmers versus industrial and municipal expansion, with the export hub of Santa Teresa at the heart of it. Water delivery system Where the wide Rio Grande bends over the state line, the river is essentially a highway: a conduit for delivering water from New Mexico to Texas, and eventually Mexico. The water only runs in this riverbed for an appointed number of days each summer – down to 75 days from flows that lasted eight months before 2003 – during which time water is diverted by southern New Mexico farmers and what remains moves southeast. The Rio Grande Project reservoir at Elephant Butte is at less than 10 percent capacity; the Bureau of Reclamation controls the release of water. A 2016 Bureau of Reclamation report, “Managing Water in the West,” affirmed that “the growing imbalance between supply and demand is expected to lead to a greater reliance on nonrenewable groundwater resources. Increased reliance on groundwater resources will lead to greater losses from the river into the groundwater system.” Santa Teresa businesses depend on fresh water from the Mesilla Bolson. So do the fast-expanding neighborhoods of Sunland Park and El Paso’s west side. So do industrial and municipal users in the booming factory town of Ciudad Juárez across the border in Mexico. And so does New Mexico’s $182.5 million pecan industry and other irrigators during the long months when the river is dry. Every drop that CRRUA slurps out of the Bolson to service Santa Teresa and Sunland Park must be paid back to the river in “offsets,” some of which come from treated wastewater being put back in the Rio Grande – a practice that King says is a “Ponzi scheme” that will be unsustainable in the long run. “You can pump out 15,000 acre feet but you are putting 7,500 acre feet (of treated wastewater) back in the river, so you can pump another 7,500 acre feet and so on,” King said. “It’s a shell game.” Santa Teresa and Sunland Park are essentially engaged in “a water-mining operation that is masking the effect of drought,” King said. “Before they run out of water, (the wells) will salt up.” El Paso relies on desalination Nearby El Paso boasts the nation’s largest inland desalination plant, with capacity to treat more than 27 million gallons per day. Ed Archuleta, the former chief executive of El Paso Water Utilities, spearheaded the city’s desalination effort. “At one time we were pumping a lot of water from the Hueco Bolson” east of the city, about 80,000 acre feet per year in the 1980s, he said in a 2009 presentation at NMSU that was published in the Journal of Transboundary Water Resources. “It was our principal source of water in El Paso.” With conservation efforts and the desalination plant, groundwater pumping dropped to below 30,000 acre feet per year and the bolson, which was dropping at the rate of a foot or two per year, stabilized, he said. Hightower estimates the capital costs of building a desalination plant could run $3 to $4 gallon, meaning a 20 million gallon-a-day facility could cost between $60 million and $80 million. But operating costs would run closer to $3 to $4 per thousand gallons – “not much different than what a lot of people are beginning to pay for new sources of water,” he said. “It’s consistent with what municipalities in the Southwest are paying for new, supplemental sources of water.” King notes that technological advances are bringing the costs down. Hightower envisions for a smaller-scale approach that would see two or three facilities desalinating 5 million or 10 million gallons a day in lieu of a single huge plant. Alternatively, he said, there are modular technologies that are commercially available and offer even smaller scale. EBID Manager Gary Esslinger recommends a similar approach: drilling a test well and placing a skid-mounted mini-desalination plant of the kind tested at a Bureau of Reclamation facility in Alamogordo. “All they need to do is verify that it’s there,” he said of the brackish water. “Just see if it’s doable. If growth comes, then they have something to go on. It would let the Rio Grande heal. We have all these straws in the valley. But if we have a brackish supply, and we can reduce the pumping, then it sustains it for awhile.” Taking the lead But who could or should spearhead such an effort? Water managers and experts point to the Border Industrial Association, the trade group that represents more than 100 industry members in Santa Teresa; or the CRRUA water utility. They also say it is unlikely that any desalination effort could be accomplished without vision and backing from the Legislature or Governor’s Office. Pacheco agrees that the industrial base may one day consider taking on such a project but reiterates the slow pace of growth. The need just isn’t there yet, he said. “We are growing the industrial base by a net 200 to 500 jobs per year,” he said. “Are more people than that moving over here into the valley? I would assume yes. But we’re not in the business of going to recruit water-intensive users.” Most of the companies locating in Santa Teresa are components manufacturers, as well as warehousing and logistics services providers tied to the maquila industry in Ciudad Juárez and the new Union Pacific intermodal rail hub. Chris Lyons, the major landowner in Santa Teresa who is developing the new Westpark industrial park and has plans for future residential development, said, “We want to be the model for water conservation in whatever we do out here.” “I think Santa Teresa is going to grow, but I think it’s going to grow within reason and logic” – maybe 50,000 people in 30 or 40 years, Pacheco said. Hightower offers a caveat. “You better think about it 10 years before you want to start it,” he said, “and you want to start it 10 years before you really need it. If you need it all of a sudden, then it’s too late.”

Monday, August 22, 2016


Surface Water Quality Bureau Total Maximum Daily Loads ________________________________________ NEW MEXICO ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT, SURFACE WATER QUALITY BUREAU PROPOSES TOTAL MAXIMUM DAILY LOADS (TMDLs) FOR THE RIO RUIDOSO WATERSHED NOTICE OF A 30-DAY PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD AND COMMUNITY MEETING The New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) Surface Water Quality Bureau (SWQB) is inviting the public to comment on the draft “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) document for the Rio Ruidoso watershed. The draft TMDL is available online at: A TMDL is a planning document that establishes specific goals to meet water quality standards in waterbodies where pollutant limits are exceeded. It includes current pollution loadings, reduction estimates for pollutants, information on probable sources of pollution, and suggestions to restore or protect the health of the waterbody. The 30-day comment period on this document will open August 22, 2016 and will close September 22, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. MDT. Formal comments for inclusion in the public record must be submitted in writing to Heidi Henderson, mailing address NMED SWQB, P.O. Box 5469, Santa Fe, NM, 87502; voice: 505-827-2901; fax number (505) 827-0160; or (if possible, please submit an electronic copy in addition to paper). A public meeting will be held to summarize the information and to provide a forum for interested parties to ask questions and provide comments; the meeting date will allow the public time to review the document. The meeting will be held in Ruidoso on Wednesday, September 14 from 6-8pm at the Village of Ruidoso Council Chambers, 313 Cree Meadows Drive. Following the close of the comment period, copies of the Response to Comments will be: • Mailed to all persons who submitted written comments during the public comment period; and • Available electronically on the bureau’s website or by contacting the bureau at the address above. The SWQB plans to request approval of the draft final TMDLs at the Water Quality Control Commission’s (WQCC) regularly scheduled meeting on November 8, 2016. WQCC agendas are available at: Persons having a disability and needing help in being a part of this process should contact Vince Velarde at least 10 days before the event, at the NMED, Human Resources Bureau, P.O. Box 5469, 1190 St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87502, telephone 505-383-2058. TDY users please access his number via the New Mexico Relay Network at 1-800-659-8331. For more information, please contact Heidi Henderson at the address or phone number provided above. Back to top ________________________________________ TMDL and Assessment Team: Meghan Bell 505-827-0669

Monday, August 15, 2016

NMSU to offer unmanned aircraft systems workshop in September

NMSU to offer unmanned aircraft systems workshop in September DATE: 08/15/2016 WRITER: Tiffany Acosta, 575-646-3929, CONTACT: Dennis Zaklan, 575-646-9417, With the increasing popularity of unmanned aircraft systems or drones, New Mexico State University’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Test Center will offer a three-day workshop to teach government, civil and business officials about the new technology and regulations. The workshop will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 13-15, at the Physical Science Laboratory at Anderson Hall. The cost is $300 per person with a working lunch included. Registration is available online at The workshop will focus on helping officials understand the technology, determine the right sensor and UAS for a particular application, prepare for the changes in this fast-moving field, become aware of the administrative and FAA regulations, and learn how to develop a plan and achieve each organization’s goals. NMSU’s UAS experts will guide participants through the requirements process addressing the many nuances to optimize budgets and perform the mission. “The workshop was developed and is being offered in answer to the many phone calls and questions we receive from state, county and city employees and even businesses. UAS is a new tool and it is easy to go the wrong direction when you purchase one because of lack of education. The problem is, the cost for the wrong decision can be substantial and can set your timeline back months or even years,” said Dennis Zaklan, deputy director of the NMSU UAS Flight Test Center and UAS Flight Operations Team. For more information contact Zaklan at or 575-646-9417. - 30 -

Tinny Fish behind Rio Grande Water Plan

Woods Note: I have not herd when we need to meet to select a presentation team to the ISC. Tiny fish behind Rio Grande water plan Albuquerque Journal By Ollie Reed Jr. / Journal Staff Writer …It is not unusual for the Rio Grande to run dry. The river dries up along some stretches almost every year, 2008 being a recent exception. About 30 miles of the river dried out last year and more may dry out this year before the irrigation season winds up at the end of October. “In almost every year going back to 1895, there was a major river drying,” Gensler said. “There has been far less drying since 1996 than there was before then. Every year since 1996, there has been something done by water managers to prevent drying.” That’s because the Rio Grande silvery minnow was declared an endangered species in 1994. Gensler said nothing needed to be done in 1995, which was an exceptionally wet year, but efforts to protect the minnow kicked in the following year. More here