All students who are enrolled as an undergraduate in any of New Mexico's colleges (including all campuses of Dine' College) except the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, and New Mexico Tech are eligible to participate in this program. All students must also be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and must not earn their bachelor's degree before August 3, 2013. Students from outside New Mexico are not eligible for this program.
"Water is not only the lifeblood of New Mexico, it is the most urgent environmental and economic development issue across the Western United States." - Bill Richardson, 2004
New Mexico faces a daunting challenge: the State’s demand for fresh water exceeds the supply from all sources. The problem will be exacerbated in the 21st Century by a combination of factors, including global climate change, increasing population, constraints associated with traditional water rights and interstate water compacts, and the general lack of scientific knowledge applicable and available to local and regional planners and policymakers. This convergence of natural and human pressures on the state’s water supply creates a serious and urgent challenge in New Mexico.
The largest source of surface water in New Mexico is the Rio Grande, which derives between one half and three quarters of its dependable surface water supply from high elevation snowpack in northern New Mexico. Worldwide, many mountain regions are experiencing the effects of climate change. Regional warming trends can have particularly profound hydrologic effects on snow-dominated systems at relatively low latitudes near the current southernmost extent of snow, such as in New Mexico. Long-term climate changes present an extreme challenge to water management in this state. Thus, it is critically important to understand the effects of global climate changes on New Mexico's mountain sources of water.
Understanding the effects of global climate change on New Mexico's water supply requires a consideration of the entire seasonal cycle of the Rio Grande’s complex hydrologic system. Currently, this system is inadequately monitored at high elevations where snow-related processes are of central importance. Mountain snowpack supplies most of the streamflow, while mountain valley hydrologic processes control the timing and magnitude of hillslope runoff into streams. Furthermore, summer rainfall accounts for up to half of total precipitation in southern NM along the downstream reaches of the Rio Grande. Summer precipitation is frequently intense but sporadic and uneven compared to winter precipitation. Research suggests that the strength of the monsoon circulation in summer may be controlled in part by surface fluxes associated with previous winter snowpack, implying that the entire season cycle needs to be considered to understand, and predict, the effects of climate change.
Understanding the effects of global climate change on New Mexico's water quality presents corresponding challenges. The Earth’s major biogeochemical cycles are being perturbed by human activities at local, regional, and global scales. In New Mexico, the sensitivity of snowmelt-dominated rivers, such as the Rio Grande, to climate changes makes these ecosystems excellent candidates for the biogeochemical characterization of the responses of water quality and solute fluxes to changes in temperature and precipitation. Monitoring environmental responses to climate change can help the state protect and maintain the quality of its water under varying climatic conditions.
In an effort to understand the impacts of climate change on New Mexico’s mountain sources of water, researchers throughout the state are collaborating on a 5 year, $15 million study of these topics. The funding for this study is provided by the National Science Foundation, through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research or "EPSCoR." This undergraduate research program is your opportunity to help understand the effects of climate change on our state.