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Aquatic Resources in Arid Lands Conference Set for April 30-May 2

LAS CRUCES-New Mexico State University will host a first-of-its-kind Aquatic Resources in Arid Lands Conference April 30-May 2 to help New Mexicans grapple with water resources management, particularly contentious endangered species issues.

Better management of New Mexico's scarce water resources will be the focus of the first Aquatic Resources in Arid Lands Conference April 30-May 2 at New Mexico State University's Corbett Center. Controversial control measures surrounding federal endangered species and Rio Grande agricultural water diversions like this one north of Socorro will be discussed. (03/26/2003) (Courtesy Photo by David Cowley)

Thirteen internationally respected experts from across the nation will discuss sustainable water use, aquatic ecosystems, genetics and species conservation during the conference at NMSU's Corbett Center in Las Cruces, said David Cowley, conference coordinator and endangered species expert with NMSU's fishery and wildlife sciences department.

"We're hoping to get a good representation from three different audiences: academics; state and federal agency representatives involved in managing water and allied aquatic resources; and interested and affected stakeholders from the public," Cowley said. "I've already had people from as far away as Michigan inquiring about the conference."

Water has been a pressing issue in New Mexico during the past decade, especially as the state has suffered through an extended drought and a continuing battle over the fate of the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow, Cowley said. About 157 miles of the Rio Grande through central New Mexico are now critical habitat for the silvery minnow.

Balancing water use for human benefit with managing and conserving aquatic resources is a critical issue that society has to face, particularly as human populations continue to grow in the arid Southwest, he said.

Among the conference's highlights is a review of environmental consequences of groundwater pumping by Robert Glennon, a public policy professor with the University of Arizona College of Law. Clark Hubbs, an emeritus biologist with the University of Texas at Austin, will speak on spring-dwelling species, and Richard Hauer, a professor and endowed chair of limnology at the University of Montana, will conclude the presentations.

The NMSU meeting will feature a moderated panel discussion about how human water use can be sustained, along with aquatic vegetation, fish, insects, birds and other animals in the aquatic and riparian areas of the region's river valleys. The final day of the conference will feature a workshop to review the scientific evidence surrounding aquatic resource management.

The conference is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rio Grande Basin Initiative, a joint project involving NMSU and Texas A&M University.

Scientists and specialists with NMSU's Water Task Force conduct research and education in urban and agricultural irrigation efficiency and water conservation.
Led by Craig Runyan, Extension water resources specialist, the task force includes about 75 NMSU experts on water-related issues who conduct scientific and technical studies of critical water problems, write 'state-of-the-science' reports, provide expert testimony at public hearings, and propose solutions to problems for water user groups throughout New Mexico.

"One of the goals of this project is to work together with decision makers and agricultural and urban water users to improve irrigation efficiency," Runyan said. "Adopting water conservation practices is important for all New Mexicans, particularly during these times of water shortages from drought."

General registration for the conference is $75 or $50 for students before April 1. After that, it's $100. For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid to participate, contact Cowley before the event at (505) 646-1346 or dcowley@nmsu.edu.