Since 2013, the High Plains Grasslands Alliance has participated in, and financially helped support, a regional scale hydrogeology project geared toward identifying and mapping groundwater resources to help landowners better manage and plan for future water use and development.
The economic and ecological viability of ranch businesses is inherently tied to long-term water availability. Thus, an understanding of groundwater resources will help inform land management decisions at both local and regional scales. From the perspective of the individual ranch, there is substantial economic value in knowing whether the ranch’s wells are losing water, whether the aquifers on which those wells rely are recharging, and at what rate those losses or gains in water are occurring. Understanding these dynamics at the scale of the individual ranch empowers managers to make informed decisions for the betterment of the ranch and its associated businesses. Click the title above to read more about this project.
In 2014, the Alliance initiated a Climate and Precipitation Monitoring project to track soil moisture, precipitation, and weather patterns across the member ranches. This project is still in the developmental stage, but at scale this project will tie weather patterns, precipitation, soil moisture, runoff, and forage productivity together to help inform land management decisions on member ranches.
As of January 2015 6 Decagon weather stations and 6 beta-stage pulse pods had been distributed across member ranches. The data under collection includes: precipitation, soil moisture, soil temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure and photosynthetic radiation. Over the coming year, the Alliance is working with the Los Alamos National Laboratory and other partners to build a database for housing this data and begin working with the group to analyze and interpret the data. Click the title above to read more about this project.
Baseline Data Collection & Student Engagement
In 2015, through collaboration with existing partners like Zeigler Geologic Consulting, and new partners like Moore Hydrology and New Mexico State University's Department of Animal and Range Sciences, the Alliance began pursuing a process for standardizing baseline data collection across member ranches. Through this effort, the group plans to gain a better understanding of ecological processes and open the door to new opportunities for research and education. In 2016, a graduate student from NMSU will work with the member ranches to identify priority research areas and establish the monitoring sites necessary for collecting baseline rangeland health data. Stay tuned for more information as this work grows.