Water Resources Program

MSC05 3110
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

Physical Location:
1915 Roma Avenue NE
Economics Building Room 1048

Phone: (505) 277-7759
Fax: (505) 277-5226

What the River Knows

UNM Faculty Member's essays on rivers



Basia Irland, a University of New Mexico professor emeritus of art and long time water faculty member, is writing a series of essays being published by National Geographic about the world's rivers, from the vantage points and in the voice of the rivers themselves.

"In my upper reaches I flow through some beautiful stretches of land, including a rocky gorge that is particularly stunning in autumn. My beginnings are quite humble. I trickle out from a small spring on private land where my pH level is a strong 7.7. This is a good number and indicates drinking water quality. In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity of a solution: The lower the number, the more acidic the liquid. About six miles from my mouth, at the lower reach of the watershed, my waters turn a deep terra cotta red-orange and the pH level drops all the way down to 4.2 due to acid mine drainage leaking into my system. It looks like I am bleeding from an ugly open wound."

That is from What the River Knows: Deckers Creek West Virginia, Irland's most recent in the series.

Irland, now a professor emeritus in UNM's Art Department, has for decades worked to bridge the divide between water's aesthetic and cultural representations and the more scientific elements typically considered in a university water studies curriculum. You can see her entire What the River Knows series here.