Water Resources Professional Project Reports


Avery Olshefski

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



The Rio Chama is the main tributary to the Rio Grande in New Mexico. Several reservoirs were built on the Rio Chama to store water for downstream users, which has led to the river section becoming highly managed, resulting in negative ecological effects. Approximately 400,000 AF per year of water is conveyed through the system without considerable consumptive amounts, 96,200 AF of which were added with the San Juan-Chama trans-basin diversion, creating more water in the system then historically available. Therefore, the flow between the El Vado and Abiquiu Reservoirs has the potential to be optimized in order to provide environmental and economic benefits. The Rio Chama Flow Project was created in 2010 to identify the optimal flows to enhance social and ecological benefits on the 31-mile stretch between El Vado and Abiquiu Reservoirs.

However, a management strategy is needed in order to formalize the current decision- making process on the Rio Chama. The Rio Chama Flow Project (Project) specifically outlines Adaptive Management (AM) as the management strategy of choice to create a framework in which to operate. A decision key, developed in DOI’s Adaptive Management Technical Guide (2009), is used to determine the appropriateness of AM for the Project. The decision key will also provide a structure for evaluating the Project and what is still needed for an AM plan. However, current AM literature has identified few successful implementations of AM plans. This project then provides a literature review of common challenges to AM implementation along with how those challenges relate to the Project.


Rio Chama, reservoirs, ecological effects, San Juan-Chama trans-basin diversion, optimal flows, El Vado Reservoir, Abiquiu Reservoir, management strategy


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.