Every summer students in UNM’s Water Resources 573 course hit the road to evaluate the environmental health of a designated portion of a stream or river in New Mexico.  The class teaches the students methods of water resource evaluation and ways to evaluate and interpret information on the management of water resources in a particular watershed.  Two instructors, Bruce Thomson, director of the Water Resources Program and Abdul-Mehdi Ali, senior research scientist and manager of the Analytical Chemical Laboratory for Earth and Planetary Sciences designed the course and travel with the students each summer.

In June, the class examined the Rito Peñas Negras in the Cuba district of the Santa Fe National Forest. Their objective was to assess the stream and determine its characteristics, quality and ability to support high quality coldwater aquatic life.  They assessed the stream at five locations, measuring flow, water quality, stream geomorphology and conducted field identification of benthic macroinvertebrates.  They also measured stream flow and water quality at three other sites in the watershed. 

The survey was conducted in late spring, just after peak water flow, and the students found that it was flowing well below bank full conditions, something they attributed to the dry winter.  They also found that the water quality was very high and  that generally the stream was in good condition with little silt accumulation and extensive undercut banks for fish refuge. However there is virtually no woody riparian vegetation in the lower reaches of the stream.  This lack of shade may cause the water to become too warm for the cold water trout the Forest Service hopes to re-establish in the stream.

The reports are sent to the Office of the State Engineer in New Mexico, and to the NM Environment Department.

Water Resources 573 is part of UNM’s Water Resources Program in University College. It is a master’s degree program and allows students to pursue either a  Hydroscience track  which emphasizes  hydrology, hydraulics, biology, chemistry and  environmental science or a Policy/Management track with an emphasis on policy, management, administration, economics and planning.

Water Resource Program Director Bruce Thomson also is active in the Albuquerque community where he is currently serving as a board member of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority. 

Hear is a short interview about AMAFCA and their current project to clean storm water in Albuquerque: