Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Pollution Assessment & Prevention In New Mexico

The mostly arid climate and scarcity of water in New Mexico present several challenges to assessing and preventing water pollution. With limited water resources, the water quality and quantity are closely related. Pollution concentrations are apt to become more apparent even with low-level sources of the pollutants. Proper assessment and prevention, therefore, can have significant impact in maintaining clean water.

An important constraint to clean water in arid lands is the naturally occurring sediment load carried during peak rainfalls from large land areas of highly erodible soil. This sediment creates not physically impaired water quality, but contributes greatly to chemical and biological impairments. Reduced drainage and storage capacity of the watershed resulting from siltation exacerbates the quality/quantity problems.

Conditions in New Mexico

Urban development concentrated along New Mexico’s river corridors presents an increasing risk to both surface and ground water resources. Urban runoff problems are a major component to the Total Maximum Daily Loading (TMDL) of some of NM’s impaired waterways. Much of the new development growth is beyond the service boundaries of municipalities, contributing to pollution risk from domestic wells and septic tanks.

Potential sources of pollution from agriculture in New Mexico come from concentrated animal feeding operations, or “CAFO’s” (point-source), and more than a quarter million acres of dryland and irrigated crops (non-point sources). A USEPA CAFO Permit program has been in place in EPA Region 6 for CAFO’s since the early 1990’s. Operators have, as required by state and federal law, groundwater and surface water pollution prevention plans as part of their overall operational management.

Other land management practices on Indian reservations, national laboratories, other military facilities, and federal lands pose pollution risks to the waters of New Mexico. Many of these government or tribal managed lands are out of reach of educational or regulatory programs.

Community Programs

Several watershed action groups exist throughout the state. Many are politically motivated, while others are project oriented. For more information, see the NMED Surface Water Bureau website.

Resources and Programs

New Mexico State University provides research, education and extension resources to assist state and federal agencies, business and industry, communities and individual citizens in addressing water quality concerns. These programs are designed to provide information for specific audiences, such as farmers, homeowners and youth.

Extension Outreach

New Mexico State University is home to New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service, which develops and delivers programs designed to provide educational outreach into all counties of the state. Outreach education enables the research developed at colleges and universities and from other sources throughout the world to be interpreted and delivered to the end user, which is often a home or business owner or agricultural producer.

New Mexico was one of the first western states to implement Farm*A*Syst: Farmstead Assessment System. The program is modeled after the national Farm*A*Syst materials and adapted to New Mexico conditions. The addition of a “Pesticide Use and Integrated Pest Management” assessment was completed for use by New Mexico’s high value agronomic crop production industry. An interactive web version of that assessment, along with the complete publication can be found at:

Extension Service’s “Protejer El Rio” project provides information to homeowners and landscapers/gardeners about protecting water resources from household hazardous wastes. The website has an interactive quiz on safe use of household chemicals, automotive products, and backyard animal wastes and features links to publications that address using household greywater, water quality standards for livestock and poultry, septic tank maintenance, and other topics important to homeowners interested in protecting water quality.

NMSU Cooperative Extension conducts several programs dedicated wholly or in part to pollution prevention. Among them are:

Master Gardener certification and Pesticide licensing are on-going NMSU Extension programs. On-site Wastewater system training is currently being proposed through a New Mexico Non-Point Source Clean Water Act grant. A certification procedure is part of that proposal. Also, Extension Service, in cooperation with New Mexico Natural Resource Conservation Service offices and the New Mexico Environment Department, has trained and is developing certification procedures for CNMP as part of the National Animal Waste Management programs. Certified Crop Advisor programs will be implemented in 2002.

Other pollution prevention programs are available to the public from other state agencies. The New Mexico Environment Department has Source Water Protection, Safe Drinking Water, Non-Point Source Protection, and other active plans for protecting New Mexico’s water resources. The New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD) and its individual Soil and Water Conservation Districts conduct many field projects each year. Many of these projects are designed to improve water and watershed health. For more information contact NMACD at 505/981-2400.


The Waste-Management Education and Research Consortium (WERC) is a coalition of universities dedicated to finding safe, economical, and practical methods of waste management and pollution prevention. Research is on-going in several areas. Annual science fairs and special scheduled educational events are organized throughout the year. For more information contact WERC at:

College and University Education

Youth and continuing adult education are critical to develop new talent and human resources to address the water quality issues of the future. Educational curricula in pollution assessment and prevention are available within several departments at New Mexico State University. Graduate and undergraduate programs in key departments include:

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