Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biological and Irrigation Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

Christopher M. U. Neale


Christopher M. U. Neale


Wynn R. Walker


Gary P. Merkley


Lawrence E. Hipps


Roger K. Kjelgren


The Middle Rio Grande River (MRGR) is the main source of fresh water for the state of New Mexico. Located in an arid area with scarce local water resources, this has led to extensive diversions of river water to supply the high demand from municipalities and irrigated agricultural activities. The extensive water diversions over the last few decades have affected the composition of the native riparian vegetation by decreasing the area of cottonwood and coyote willow and increasing the spread of invasive species such as Tamarisk and Russian Olives, harmful to the river system, due to their high transpiration rates, which affect the river aquatic system. The need to study the river hydrological processes and their relation with its health is important to preserve the river ecosystem.

To be able to do that a detailed vegetation map was produced using a Utah State University airborne remote sensing system for 286 km of river reach. Also a groundwater model was built in ArcGIS environment which has the ability to estimate soil water potential in the root zone and above the modeled water table. The Modified Penman- Monteith empirical equation was used in the ArcGIS environment to estimate riparian vegetation ET, taking advantage of the detailed vegetation map and spatial soil water potential layers. Vegetation water use per linear river reach was estimated to help decision makers to better manage and release the amount of water that keeps a sound river ecosystem and to support agricultural activities.




This work was revised and made publicly available electronically on July 18, 2011