Water Resources Professional Project Reports


Ron Amato

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The Gallinas River in north central New Mexico is currently listed on the State 303(d) list of impaired waters for unknown toxicity, ammonia, and stream bottom deposits. Empirical evidence of these problems is manifested as periodic mortality of aquatic organisms and conspicuous amounts of algae. These listings will result in development of one or more Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) if the problems cannot be resolved. To date, research on this river has focused on physical, chemical and biological characterization of specific issues such as hydraulic conductivity and nutrient flux. These dynamics are the underpinnings of a complete understanding of river function and health. The current regulatory climate focuses on water composition and those components that can be identified and measured. Water quality criteria are developed resulting in numerical standards that allow concerned parties to evaluate the water body in unequivocal terms; either the standard was achieved or it was not. Therefore, an investigation was undertaken to examine not only the current listings, but examine if further listings are also necessary. Nutrient, metal, organic and radionuclide contamination was assessed in order to elucidate water quality from a regulatory perspective. The central theme was to identify and gauge the magnitude of contaminant sources. Possible sources included the Las Vegas Wastewater Treatment Plant, Montezuma Hot Springs and Pecos Arroyo. This investigation was undertaken as assistance to and with support from the New Mexico Environment Department. The Gallinas River has no observable impacts in the headwater reach. As the River passes through the City of Las Vegas, urban impacts are more pronounced than natural contaminants that result from local geology and thermal waters. Those concerned should focus efforts on this source, including infrastructure improvements and enforcement of current and anticipated regulations.

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ambient water quality, toxicity, nutrient study, Gallinas River, Clean Water Act, general water chemistry, ammonia, Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET), heavy metals, radionuclides, stormwater runoff


A Professional Project Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Water Resources Hydroscience Option Water Resources Program, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 2004.