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Campus News
University of New Mexico experts work to solve regional water issues
August 16, 2004

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UNM cultivates water expertise

In the Southwest, water is a valuable resource – a commodity bought and sold, bickered and litigated, cherished, and in some communities, hallowed.

Marilyn O’Leary, director of the Utton Center for Transboundary Resources at the UNM School of Law, said, “Water is the most important resource issue that we have right now and it’s the one I know the best.”

An expert in water policy and law, O’Leary is one of numerous faculty at UNM working to solve water woes.

New Mexico is a model laboratory for field research with application worldwide, O’Leary said. Dealing with a prolonged drought, treating surface water for municipal use, regulating groundwater pumping, adjudicating water rights, removing arsenic and developing conservation methods, are among issues facing the state.

“I consider the Southwestern United States to be the best place in the world to study water,” agreed Michael Campana, UNM Water Resources Program director. “We have just about all of water’s ‘issues’ here: scientific, engineering, social, agricultural, economic, artistic, cultural, legal, policy, climatologic, endangered species-related, indigenous peoples, etc. Where else can you find all these issues coming together?”

“At UNM we have a talented cadre of bright, enthusiastic water experts who appreciate the multifaceted aspects of water and enjoy collaborating outside their own disciplines,” he said.

Provost Brian L. Foster noted water as an issue of premiere importance in New Mexico and globally. “We need to make a contribution toward understanding and solving these issues,” he said.

“What we may have to offer is an expertise in cultural use of water, values associated with it and its impact on the way people live.

“Many institutions have expertise in water issues. We want to approach this topic in ways that others are not.”

Economic development, travel and tourism are corollary issues to water discussions, Foster said.

Water research runs the gamut at the state’s flagship institution. Some monitor and work to protect the Rio Grande, others delve into water rights and policy or fight to improve water resources in developing countries.

In this supplement, the UNM Public Affairs Department shares some of this important work. The office is compiling an expert guide, available later this month at www.unm.edu/news. In this issue, we share a small sampling, highlighting UNM’s comprehensive list of water experts.