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The Master’s Degree in Water Resources


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 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 the water field.  The program seeks to expand and deepen students’ knowledge of their primary disciplines as well as 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 track or the Policy/Management 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 (biology, chemistry, earth/environmental sciences, mathematics, toxicology, physics, physical geography, engineering, etc.) who wish to complement their primary discipline by obtaining expertise in water resources with an emphasis on the scientific/engineering aspects of water. Students without technical backgrounds may select this track but may need to take remedial hydroscience classes to prepare for graduate level course work. The Policy/Management track is designed for students with diverse backgrounds—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 those 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 character 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 an appreciation for the short- and long-term implications of water allocation and land-use practices 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. Establishing those competencies is the goal of the MWR degree program.


In 1991, the Master of Water Resources Administration (MWRA) degree was formally initiated at the University of New Mexico in response to the need for well-educated water resources administrators, who could balance competing economic, social, technological, ecological and cultural requirements. This 36 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, the graduate unit responsible for administering the degree, was transferred to UNM’s University College, which is rapidly becoming a home for UNM’s interdisciplinary programs.

Mailing Address:
Water Resources Program
MSC05 3110
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001 USA
Physical Address:
SSCI-Economics Building, #57
1915 Roma Avenue NE
Albuquerque, NM 87131
Contact Info:
Voice: 505-277-7759
Fax: 505-277-5226

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