Water Resources Professional Project Reports


Miranda Rivera

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



INTRODUCTION Lack of water is nothing new for New Mexico’s general population. However, its immediate negative effects are unevenly distributed throughout the state, which is increasingly evident in the context of rising temperatures and decreases in precipitation. Access to clean drinking water is significantly more pressing in rural and off-the-grid communities than in metropolitan areas of New Mexico. On the Taos Mesa in northern New Mexico, these off-the-grid communities continue hauling as the only available method for accessing water today. In these communities, water is not only a vital source of livelihood but also necessary for the continuance of cultural practices like farming and irrigation. Lack of infrastructure and monetary funds for drilling wells are primary explanations for the challenging situations these communities find themselves in today. Thus, on the dry land of the Taos Mesa, each drop of water is accounted for and budgeted accordingly.


The objective of this project was to evaluate creative, sustainable solutions for accessing clean drinking water in the Taos Mesa communities of Taos County, New Mexico, with a focus on rainwater catchment. Eight interviews with community members on water management were conducted across five communities within the Taos Mesa area. A case study of a particular rainwater harvesting system was analyzed, and rainwater catchment calculations were conducted for one household within the Tres Orejas community. This case study evaluated whether rainwater harvesting is appropriate for all communities on the Taos Mesa as an effective approach to access water and to prepare for a changing climate.


New Mexico, rural communities, infrastructure, wells, Taos, Taos Mesa, Tres Orejas, rainwater catchment


A Professional Project Report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Water Resources, Water Resources Program, University of New Mexico.