The Rio Grande Research Center (RGRC) at Sul Ross State University received a grant from the National Parks Foundation to monitor spring contributions and flow along the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River in light of climate change and upstream human activity.
According to Dr. Kevin Urbanczyk, a hydrologist and the director of RGRC, the grant totaling $32,855 will fund a study of the Rio Grande River “with a goal of quantifying the amount of water that enters the river via numerous springs in the national park and the Wild and Scenic River downstream.”
“The springs are from aquifers and begin to appear downstream of Mariscal Mountain. They include the hot springs in the park, but most of the input is located in the Lower Canyons which extend from La Linda to a river access south of Dryden,” said Dr. Urbanczyk.
He said most of the work will be the canyons, where two eight-day canoe trips to measure water flow and quality will launch next spring with the assistance of three students.
Two issues could potentially compromise the quality and integrity of the Lower Canyons, according to Urbanczyk, including little knowledge about the recharge of the binational aquifer on which they depend, and low flow that results in increased sediment and encroachment of undesirable vegetation causing channel narrowing and reduced aquatic habit quality.
Urbanczyk expects the field work to be completed by the end of Spring 2024.
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