The Water Resources Program (WRP) offers the Master of Water Resources (MWR) degree, an interdisciplinary professional degree designed to prepare students for careers in water resources management and related fields. The WRP also participates with the Department of Community and Regional Planning at UNM in offering a dual MCRP-MWR degree. The University of New Mexico's location in the Southwestern USA means that there is a natural emphasis on dry-region water issues; however, the MWR degree is designed to provide its students a firm grounding in water resources that is applicable throughout the world. The MWR degree is generally directed towards students wishing to further develop their qualifications and expertise in the practice of water resources management. Therefore, although it does include considerable exposure to research topics and methods in this area, its principal orientation is towards practice rather than research. Entering students are assumed to have a basic proficiency in at least one water-related discipline (defined rather broadly) such as engineering, sociology, management, public administration, environmental studies, economics, law, chemistry, planning, political science, geology, geography, and biology, or professional experience in a water-related field. The program seeks to expand and deepen students' knowledge of their primary disciplines, provide them with an integrated perspective on water in nature and society, improve their capacity to think carefully and comprehensively, and develop their technical and communications skills.
The MWR degree is obtained by following one of two tracks or options: the Hydroscience (HS) track or the Policy/Management (PM) track. Each track consists of 39 semester credits: 36 credits of coursework plus 3 credits for a professional project. The Hydroscience track is designed primarily for students with technical backgrounds and interests (biology, chemistry, earth/environmental sciences, mathematics, toxicology, physics, physical geography, engineering, etc.) who wish to complement their primary discipline by obtaining expertise in the scientific and/or engineering aspects of water resources and its management. Students without technical backgrounds may select this track but may need to take remedial HS classes to prepare for graduate level course work. The Policy/Management track is designed for students with backgrounds in the natural sciences, political science, economics, sociology, management, engineering, geography, psychology, public administration, law, community and regional planning, public health, etc. who wish to emphasize aspects of water dealing with economics, policy, administration, management and planning. The curriculum for each track is flexible, enabling a student, with guidance from his/her advisor and committee, to design a course of study in accord with his/her career objectives.
The interdisciplinary nature and practical orientation of the MWR program reflect the growing complexity of water issues. Over the past several decades, population shifts, industrial developments, changes in water law, and advances in technology have intensified competition for water resources and placed new burdens of decision on the people who manage them. Increasing problems of water pollution, for example, require not only an understanding of water chemistry and transport systems, but also an appreciation for the short- and long-term implications of water allocation and land-use practices, and the valuation of negative externalities, as well as an ability to communicate and work effectively with specialists in various fields, policymakers, and concerned citizens. In short, effective water resource professionals need many competencies. The WRP strives to provide these competencies.
The broad vision of the program emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of the MWR degree, and the inherent links to sustainability issues. The WRP Mission Statement (from the 2010, Academic Program Review), identifies the program goal as: ""to become 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.""
The WRP has a 25 year history of offering an interdisciplinary master degree, graduating several hundred students who now work in the water resources field across New Mexico, the Southwest and elsewhere. The Master of Water Resources Administration (MWRA) degree was formally initiated at the University of New Mexico in 1991 in response to the need for well-educated water resources administrators, who could balance competing economic, social, technological, ecological and cultural requirements. This 39 semester-credit professional degree helped organize and package the considerable water expertise of the UNM campus in a manner that made it readily available to students and citizens of New Mexico. The interdisciplinary nature of the degree assured that its graduates were exposed to the issues and conflicts facing today's water managers as well as the solutions being proposed. The core of the degree brought diverse faculty together to present their knowledge in an integrated manner. Without the MWRA degree, this integrated view of water management problems and potential solutions was not possible within highly structured, discipline-focused university departments and traditional degree programs. Our first student graduated in 1991. In 1995, a Professional Project was initiated in place of the Master's comprehensive examination. No semester credits were given for the project. In 1998, the highly-structured MWRA degree became the current Master of Water Resources (MWR) degree. The more flexible two-track MWR degree affords students greater options in their coursework program (Policy/Management or Hydroscience) and expands the number of available participating faculty. Three semester credits were given for the Professional Project, bringing the total number of semester credits to 39. The Water Resources Program (WRP), the graduate unit responsible for administering the degree, was transferred to UNM's University College in 1998. In Summer 2013, the WRP was transferred to Graduate Studies at UNM, reporting to the Dean of Graduate Studies
Graduates of the Water Resources program enjoy a wide range of employment opportunities. These fall into four categories, all of which employ one or more MWR alumni:
1. Public resource management agencies including federal (US Bureau of Reclamation, US Park Service, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey), state (NM Environment Department, NM Office of the State Engineer), and local (city and county water utilities, public works departments, and environmental health departments).
2. Consulting firms, which often provide consulting services to federal, state, and local water resource management agencies. Many of these firms also provide consulting services to industries and other entities that are large users of water.
3. Private industries and other entities that use large amounts of water such as electric power, mining, and agricultural businesses
4. Further graduate education leading to the Ph.D. degree or professional degrees in fields such as law, engineering or public health.