UNM and New Mexico Water News


How a 100-year-old miscalculation drained the Colorado River

In a recent article by Benji Jones, John Fleck, science writer and former director of University of New Mexico’s Water Resource Program, talks about the decreasing water supply of the Colorado River. In this article, John discusses decisions people have made and will need to make in the coming future.

"Over the last 15 years, river managers have faced a looming problem: We've been taking more water out of the river than it can provide. So they negotiated a series of agreements that say if, for example, Lake Mead drops to a certain level, there'll be cutbacks. If it drops even more, the cutbacks will get bigger."

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.

Upper Basin Risks under the Colorado River Compact

Water Resources Program Director John Fleck and Anne Castle, a senior fellow at the Getches-Wilkinson Center at the University of Colorado Law School, have published a new study on the risk of curtailment to water users in the Upper Colorado River Basin as climate change deletes the flow of the Colorado River.

Winning acceptance for wastewater reuse

Water Resources Program faculty Caroline Scruggs (UNM Community and Regional Planning), working with Water Resources Program graduate student Claudia Pratesi and WRP Director John Fleck (UNM Economics) have a new paper on what it takes to win public acceptance of wastewater reuse.

Algal blooms close New Mexico reservoirs

Water Resources Program Associated Director Becky Bixby and graduate students Monika Hobbs and Mollie Hanttula helped New Mexico In Focus understand the science behind algal blooms at New Mexico reservoirs


Buying time for the next steps on the Colorado River

A new water use reduction plan for the states of the Colorado River Basin is a good first step, but is only the beginning, WRP Director John Fleck, with Colorado State's Brad Udall and the University of Colorado's Doug Kenney, write at The Conversation.

The Future of the Colorado River

Water Resources Program Director John Fleck recently sat down with Tara Lohan of The Revelator to discuss his new book, and the future of the Colorado River.

UNM Researcher Studies Ecological Responses in a River with More and Less Water: Chama River unrepresentative system for natural water flow

University of New Mexico graduate student Monika “Mo” Hobbs has been conducting research along the Chama River and El Vado Dam in northern New Mexico to attempt to learn how the flow of water affects invertebrates and their environment.

Last year, Hobbs received $6,000 to help fund her research titled Ecological responses in a river with more and less water: a case study of highly-managed Chama River, New Mexico as a part of the Student Water Research Grants program through the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute.

The Rio Chama has several reservoirs and dams, including Heron Reservoir, El Vado Reservoir, and Abiquiu Lake that are essential for storing water for agriculture and residents of New Mexico, while also providing flood control services. Hobbs’ research focuses on the Chama River and the El Vado Dam and how that dam affects the physical and biological structure of a stream including the timing, magnitude, and frequency of stream discharge.

“My research integrates elements of biology, hydrology, and geomorphology,” said Hobbs, who is currently working on her Masters’ in Water Resources in UNM’s Water Resources Program. “In New Mexico, the water is more spoken for than it is present. The use of water must be allocated amongst multiple users while also trying to maintain a life for aquatic organisms and habitats.”

- More from Steve Carr

"Science Be Dammed", new book by Water Resources Program Director John Fleck

Science Be Dammed is an alarming reminder of the high stakes in the management—and perils in the mismanagement—of water in the western United States. It seems deceptively simple: even when clear evidence was available that the Colorado River could not sustain ambitious dreaming and planning by decision-makers throughout the twentieth century, river planners and political operatives irresponsibly made the least sustainable and most dangerous long-term decisions. - University of Arizona Press

Water conservation policy and the health benefits of urban trees

UNM Water Resources Program faculty Benjamin Jones and John Fleck have published a new paper arguing that the health benefits of urban trees should be considered in water conservation policy discussions: Urban Trees and Water Use in Arid Climates: Insights from an Integrated Bioeconomic-Health Model

UNM Water Conference Report published

The final report of the May 2018 UNM water conference,  “New Mexico Water: What Our Next Leaders Need to Know”, has been published.

UNM Campus Rainworks Challenge team wins big

UNM's Campus Rainworks Challenge team - students from Landscape Architecture,Architecture, Community and Regional Planning, and Civil Engineering - won second place nationally in annual EPA competition for their rethinking of UNM's Johnson Field.

"One cannot discuss water without first emphasizing interconnections."

Basia Irland, international water artist, scholar, and art professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico, on the role of art in thinking about the world's water resources:

We are water. Our bodies house streams: lymph, bile, sweat, blood, mucus, urine. Water enters, circulates, leaves -- individualized hydrologic cycles. Each of us is a walking river, sloshing down the hallway with damp innards held together by a paper-thin epidermis.