Impacts of Global Warming on New Mexico's Water Resources - An Assessment of the Rio Grande Basin

A scientific study was undertaken by researchers at two New Mexico universities to evaluate the potential impacts of future warming on water resources in the Rio Grande basin.

The paper begins with a discussion of New Mexico’s climate and the approaches used to model and identify appropriate scenarios of climate change. Next, the state’s hydrologic situation is described through review of key studies that have tried to understand climate influences on the state’s rivers and discussion of the hydrologic modeling used to examine climate change scenarios and estimate streamflow changes. This is followed by a description of the economic approach used to estimate impacts. A hydro-economic model of the Rio Grande watershed is used that optimizes the allocation of available water and, as necessary, readjusts water-use patterns such that economic losses are minimized during, for example, a long-run downturn in streamflow.

Key findings of this study outline how: 1) Changes in runoff would affect water storage systems and patterns of water availability, which in turn could seriously disrupt current human water use patterns, vegetation, and wildlife habitat; 2) Competition will increase for water and raise the economic pressure to transfer water from agricultural to urban and industrial users; 3) Some water uses could be curtailed as surface water supplies are significantly diminished; 4) Substantial and transformational disruption to New Mexico's agricultural and rural economy is projected; and 5) Losses and transfers amounting to over 30% of current water use levels will dramatically and negatively affect communities and environments across the region.


Publication Date: October 2007

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Brian H. Hurd
  • Julie Coonrod

Related Organizations:

  • New Mexico State University
  • University of New Mexico


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment

States Affected:


Go To Resource