Water Resources Field Methods Reports



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During the second week of June 2010, the UNM Masters of Water Resources students, staff, and collaborators studied the Cimarron River watershed from its head waters above Eagle Nest Lake to its confluence with the Canadian River near Taylor Springs, NM, and the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge(NWR)near Maxwell, NM. The investigation included measuring flows and water quality characteristics at 34 surface water sites in the two study areas. The main objectives of the study were to conduct a river assessment of the Cimarron River and evaluate water quality characteristics and playa lake sediment chemistry at the Maxwell NWR. It is expected that this report will serve as a basis for future research on the hydrology, water quality, and to a lesser extent, the socioeconomic characteristics of the river and its watershed and the Maxwell NWR. The report is divided into two sections, the first section describes the work done on the Cimarron River watershed and the second section describes work done at the Maxwell NWR. The Cimarron River watershed drains 1,032 square miles and is located on the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northeastern New Mexico, originating in mountains with elevations over 12,000 feet above sea level. The Cimarron River then flows eastward onto the eastern plains of New Mexico, draining into the successively larger Canadian and Arkansas Rivers, which ultimately flow into the Mississippi River. The principal source of water supply in the watershed is surface water, and most is used for agricultural activities consisting of irrigation and livestock watering. Drinking water is supplied almost entirely by ground water except for the communities of Cimarron, Miami and Springer. Raton, located outside of the watershed, also supplements its drinking water supply with surface water from the Cimarron watershed. Six reaches of the Cimarron River and one reach of Rayado Creek were subjected to intensive evaluation using EPAs Environmental Monitoring Assessment Program (EMAP) protocol. Data was collected and analyzed concerning the hydrology, geomorphology, riparian vegetation, human impacts, benthic macroinvertebrates, and water quality. In addition, flow measurements and water quality samples were taken at 24 other locations within the basin. This assessment found generally high quality conditions of the river and riparian environment throughout the Cimarron River. This conclusion was supported by the type and diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates, by channel geomorphic criteria, and by water quality measurements. Electrical conductivity, an indirect measure of salinity, was found to increase as the river flows onto the eastern plains; the source was not identified. The water in the river is hard and is dominated by calcium, magnesium and sulfate ions. It is recognized that this assessment was done near the peak of spring runoff; it is likely that low flow conditions later in the summer will present environmental stresses to the system. Low but measurable concentrations of nitrates were found throughout the watershed with the highest concentrations occurring in samples collected near a residential area and golf course in Cieneguilla Creek near the town of Angel Fire. Recommendations are included for further studies to quantify stream flows and diversions in the watershed to gain a better understanding of water use. Information is also needed on the 7 seasonal concentrations of chemical constituents in the river and its tributaries to understand the impact of development, especially that associated with non-residential vacation homes and potential development of coal bed methane. The water quality in lakes and irrigation ditches at the Maxwell NWR was of generally high quality and dominated by calcium, magnesium and sulfate salts. Salt crust collected on the surface of a dry playa lake contained high concentrations of calcium, magnesium, sodium, and sulfate ions. Slightly elevated selenium concentrations were detected in sediment samples collected from a playa lake at the refuge. However, selenium concentrations in lake water and irrigation ditch samples were less than 1 μg/L.



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Stream health--Cimarron River., Water quality--Cimarron River., Instream flow--Cimarron River., Watershed hydrology--Cimarron River Watershed., Water quality--New Mexico--Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge., Playas--New Mexico--Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge.


Water resources field methods report summarizes the work of University of New Mexico students investigating the Cimarron River and Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge in NE New Mexico.

Water resources assessment of the Cimarron River and evaluation of water quality characteristics at the Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge