University of New Mexico Water Resources Program

Valles Caldera UNM Water Resources Program field camp


"The science and policy of water."
Director John Fleck


Based at the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque, the UNM Water Resources Program is a regionally prominent center of expertise on water-related issues and training for environmental professionals, promoting fair, healthy and sustainable solutions to the challenges of water use in New Mexico and the southwest. Drawing from faculty across the university campus, the interdisciplinary program gives students a chance to explore a rich diversity of academic topics related to water, to further their careers and in the process improve the management of water in the arid West.

The program is led by John Fleck, author of the acclaimed books Water is For Fighting Over: And Other Myths about Water in the West, which the New York Times called "illuminating", and Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River. Fleck's work, as an academic and a writer for popular audiences, is focused on the Colorado River Basin - its problems as climate change collides with population growth, and its solutions, as communities learn to collaborate in the task of using less water. His service as Water Resources Program director is an extension of that work, helping a new generation of water managers develop the technical skills and policy understanding needed to solve the region's problems.


Verhines named to be new Water Resources Program Director


Graduate Studies Dean Julie Coonrod has named Scott Verhines, former head of New Mexico's state water management agency, to direct the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program beginning in fall 2021. Verhines, a New Mexico native and UNM graduate, served from 2011-2014 as New Mexico State Engineer and Secretary of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission – the state’s top water management jobs. “Scott has worked on water resources challenges in every part of New Mexico for over three decades,” said Coonrod, who oversees the program. Verhines replaces John Fleck, who has served as director for five years and is stepping down to write a book about the history of water management on the Rio Grande.

More on Verhines here.


Managing Climate Change Risk on the Colorado River

To take the impact of climate change on the Colorado River seriously requires embracing and incorporating serious river flow reductions into the modeling used to support management decisions over the next five years, WRP Director John Fleck and Brad Udall of Colorado State University argue in an editorial in the May 28 issue of Science magazine:

It is tempting to use today's 20% flow decline as the new baseline—that is, modeling future reductions on the basis of what has already been observed. But only by planning for even greater declines can we manage the real economic, social, and environmental risks of running low on a critical resource upon which 40 million North Americans depend.

Undocumented Students

Undocumented students of all ethnicities and nationalities can find a safe environment and supportive community at the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program. Whether you’re thinking about applying to UNM or already a student, there are various programs to help you transition to and succeed at UNM.

UNM offers a range of support services — from academic and personal counseling, to financial aid and legal advising — that can help you balance being a full-time student while handling other day-to-day challenges you may face. More information is available through UNM Sanctuary Campus and Undocumented UNM.