What Do WRP Alumni Do?

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 National 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 (Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, City of Santa Fe).

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 a Ph.D. degree or professional degrees in fields such as law, engineering, or public health.

Alumni Highlights

Sara Chudnoff

Sara C photo

Sara Chudnoff received her Master of Water Resources degree from UNM in 2009 after earning a degree in Geology from NM Tech in 2006. At UNM. she followed the hydroscience track and completed a professional project assessing the water quality of the Rio Katari and its principal tributaries in Bolivia under the direction of Professor Bruce Thomson. At the time, the field problems class and the Water Resources Program were frequently working in Latin America which led to a number of professional projects being focused on that region.

Since graduating, Sara has had a varied and interesting career in both the public and private sectors. She has worked as a hydrogeologist for Bernalillo County, the Office of the State Engineer-Hydrology Bureau, and then the aquifer mapping program at the NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. She subsequently moved to southeastern Arizona and became an independent consultant working on water planning and hydrogeology projects in both Arizona and New Mexico. While she continues to work as a consultant, she has recently joined the American Ground Water Trust, a professional organization with a mission to inform the public and water professionals of the importance of groundwater as a source of water supply and promote efficient and effective use of this resource.

Since graduating Sara has maintained a close relationship with the Water Resources Program, its faculty, and her fellow grad students. She has recently been teaching online geohydrology classes and is frequently in contact with former colleagues in NM. She now lives with her husband and their young children in Pinetop, Arizona.

What advice would you give to students pursuing a career in water resource management?

If you are able to intern/work in the water resources field while pursuing your degree, do so. This will give you the opportunity to explore the many paths you can take in the field and help you figure out what you want to do after graduation. The job market is tilted in your favor. Use this to find a company and culture you believe in! Lastly, attend local conferences and meetups. These offer valuable opportunities to network with professionals in the field and develop relationships within the industry. 

What are the most valuable things you learned during your academic career at UNM?

When your professors assign you to a group project, they do so with purpose. As painful as it may be, they usually recognize our strengths and weaknesses and group us accordingly. Take the time in these group projects to evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses and use that knowledge to help yourself build a team in the future that lifts each other up with their respective strengths.

Be the first person in the room to say yes to something new. When I took WR 573 (Field Problems) many moons ago, I jumped at the chance to titrate samples every evening, prepare and run samples on the analytical equipment, and put together the interpretive report and associated figures. Did I grumble a little bit about how much "I" chose to take on? Yes. But now I realize how much I learned about geochemistry because of that, and it gave me the confidence to apply what I learned to projects I work on today.

Contact: sara.chudnoff@gmail.com

Roger Peery

Roger Peery photoRoger Peery was among the first graduates of the Water Resources program having received his Master of Water Resources degree in 1992. He also earned a B.S in Geology from UNM. His professional project was related to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Yuma Desalting Plant.

Roger joined John Shomaker and Associates, Inc. (JSAI, www.shomaker.com) after graduating with his geology degree and has been with the firm for over 30 years. He is presently CEO and Principal Hydrogeologist. His work at JSAI is focused on ground water resources has included projects on water resource development, aquifer storage and recovery, permitting, design & construction of water supply wells and brine injection wells, and development of ground water monitoring programs. He has worked all over the southwest and his clients have included a mix of large and small water utilities, industrial companies, and private parties. Some of his clients have included the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA), Village of Ruidoso, Las Cruces Utilities, numerous Pueblos, and mining companies.

The most notable changes in the industry over the last several decades are those related to permitting for environmental projects, water rights, and municipal drinking water supply wells. The permitting process has become quite arduous, and has resulted in significant increases in the time and cost to complete projects. On the plus side, the hydrogeologic setting in many places has been studied more thoroughly, making it easier to help people and communities develop safe and reliable groundwater supplies. 

Over the years, JSAI has hired a number of UNM graduates from the WRP and other departments and maintains a connection with our faculty and students.

What advice would you give to students pursuing a career in water resource management?

The interdisciplinary nature of the WRP provides an excellent opportunity to obtain a strong background in both technical and policy aspects of water. I strongly encourage students that are focused on either the technical or policy aspects of water to take as many courses as they can in both tracks. This will build a foundation for working with everyone involved in water resources.

What are the most valuable things you learned during your academic career at UNM?

The WRP did not have technical and policy tracks at the time I was in the program. All students took a fairly balanced set of courses that included engineering, hydrogeology, biology, public administration, water law, and environmental law. As a working hydrogeologist at that time, I didn’t appreciate how valuable the policy portion of the program would ultimately be for my career. The water law and environmental law portions of the program have also served me well on the many projects where I have helped obtain permits.

My advice: Once established in a career, never passing up an opportunity to take a short course, go to a conference, or listen to someone else’s perspective on an issue. There is always something new to learn; if you quit learning, you’re not paying attention.

Contact:  rpeery@shomaker.com