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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU's College of Engineering offers one-of-a-kind water resources training program

Every summer, New Mexico State University's College of Engineering, in cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, administers a water resources technicians training program to prepare Native Americans as entry-level water resource technicians.

Students in NMSU's Bureau of Indian Affairs Water Technicians Training Program tour the Las Cruces Wastewater Treatment Plant June 23. (NMSU photo by Bryant Million)

The training program, which teaches an introduction to the basics of water resources engineering management and community issues, is open to 15 Native Americans selected from across the United States.

"It is very rigorous and challenging," said Phillip King, associate professor of civil and geological engineering at NMSU. "It requires a lot of commitment, but in the end, it is a high-value program."

Originally in 1992, the program was held in the state of Washington. It was moved in 1993 after an instructor in the training program suggested it be relocated to NMSU because of its engineering program's strength.

"I can't think of another university that would have this type of success," King said.

The purpose of the program is to enable tribes to move toward self-sufficiency in the management and use of natural resources, particularly water, on their reservation lands.

Students in the program receive hands-on training in topics such as hydrology, aquatic chemistry and biology, wastewater treatment and water rights.

The four-week training program includes lectures, problem solving, field exercises and tours of water facilities from NMSU professors and several government agencies, including the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency, Elephant Butte Irrigation District, and the Office of Surface Mining, among others.

Upon completion of the program, students receive certification from each of the participating agencies, and funding from the BIA for one year of on-the-job training through their tribal government.