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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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New Weather Stations to Help Monitor Rio Grande Water Use

LAS CRUCES -- Monitoring the climate along the Rio Grande is critical to managing a steady, reliable water source. To track water and weather conditions along the river, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District is installing 10 new weather stations provided by the Bureau of Reclamation.

"These electronic sensors monitor air temperature, relative humidity, soil temperature and moisture, precipitation, solar radiation and wind speed and direction," said Ted Sammis, New Mexico's climatologist and a hydrologist with New Mexico State University's Agricultural Experiment Station. "This information will allow us to better manage and monitor the Rio Grande resources."

The Elephant Butte Conservation District also is installing two dataloggers, making the total 12.

Steve Hansen with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is coordinating the project. "We will be using this network to model daily operations on the river," Hansen said.

This new evapotranspiration monitoring network project is about 50 percent complete, with several weather stations already on-line.

Evapotranspiration is the loss of water by both evaporation from open water and transpiration from plants along the river, as well as irrigated crops in the valley.

Evapotranspiration in the Rio Grande corridor, which includes both the forest along the river and the Rio Grande itself, accounts for about 60 percent of the total water used, Hansen said.

"The climate data collected from the weather station dataloggers will be combined with crop acreage data to calculate the evapotranspiration component of the water balance for the entire river," Sammis said.

Information from the new network, including real-time weather data and a clickable map displaying daily evapotranspiration rates, will be available on the World Wide Web at http://www.usbr.gov/rsmg/nexrad/riogrande.html.

This information also will be accessible through the New Mexico Climate Center at http://weather.nmsu.edu.

"NMSU's computer automatically updates its climate data base each evening by calling dataloggers across the state," Sammis said. The devices being installed along the Rio Grande also will be called by the computer.

"The middle Rio Grande basin has a history of consuming a large amount of water," Hansen said. "There is a real need to monitor and understand water use because in average years the Middle Rio Grande Basin is using more water than it receives on a renewable basis."