slots still available for UNM Water Resources Program fall 2017

UNM Water Resources Program students at the Valles Caldera

We still have some slots available for fall 2017 in the University of New Mexico Water Resources Program.

When I left my career in journalism, it was for the chance to join a community of people at the University of New Mexico who are passionate about water. We’re looking for students who think that way too, who are interested in developing the skills and knowledge to help solve the problem of ensuring sustainable and resilient water systems in the West and around the world.

The program is fundamentally interdisciplinary. We’ve got students right now studying the complexities of climate dynamics with UNM’s Dave Gutzler; the challenge of wastewater reused with Caroline Scruggs; the complexities of water law with Reed Benson; the complexities of thinking through what we mean by resilience and how we achieve it with Melinda Harm Benson. The same students. Studying all of these things. We take “interdisciplinary” seriously. (And yes, your tuition includes not one but two Bensons.)

Our core curriculum includes a three broad survey courses.

Our introduction is called Contemporary Issues in Water Management, which I teach along with Bob Berrens, my predecessor as director of the Water Resources Program, with frequent cameos from Bruce Thomson, Bob’s predecessor. Bob’s an economist, Bruce is an environmental engineer, and I’m a former journalist turned professional water wonk. “An economist, an engineer, and a journalist walked into a bar, see, and….” As I said, we take “interdisciplinary” seriously. We cover a lot of ground in a course that’s rooted in an effort to tease out and make sense of water policy and governance is in all its messy complexity.

In the spring semester, students tie physical hydrology and human elements together in the development of a system dynamics model of a watershed. Working with hydrologist Jesse Roach and economist Jinjing Wang, the students this spring are building a computer model of the Gila River watershed in New Mexico to ask questions about human use of water in the region, including its economic and environmental components. Throughout the first two classes, I’m teaching communication at the interface between students’ technical work and the political/policy world in which they’ll be applying it. I’m convinced that understanding deeply how politics and politics work in real world settings is crucial to success in water management. This is my passion.

The third core course is a field course. Students learn to measure water, then spend several days up in the Valles Caldera doing a rapid watershed assessment. See picture above. ‘Nuff said.

With the core out of the way, we then dispatch our students across the campus, assembling what one of this years’ students smartly described as a “choose your own adventure” curriculum tailored to students’ professional goals and personal interests. We’ve got our tendrils in geography, law, engineering, biology, earth science, community and regional planning, and art. Yup. Art. As I said, we take “interdisciplinary” seriously. Water is no one thing.

Students’ capstone for their masters degree is a professional project, which in recent years have ranged from the use of remote sensing to help water managers understand agricultural water use to a look at the prospects for adaptive management of environmental flows on the Rio Chama. This is the coolest part. Lots of examples of our students’ work here.

Know anyone who might be interested? Share this link, and/or have them drop me a line: Details on the program here, and if you’re serious our detailed Program Guidelines are here in pdf with info on admissions requirements, prerequisites, and the path through the university bureaucracy.