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US Mexico Border Water and Environmental Sustainability Training (UMB-WEST):

2014 UMB-WEST Participants at the Mangrove Eddy Covariance Tower in the Sea of Cortez
The 2013 UMB-WEST Participants at El Novillo dam
The UMB-WEST 2012 Group at the Molinito Reservoir


The US-Mexico Border (UMB) regions of Arizona and Sonora share a semiarid climate and have extended periods of water scarcity. Varying levels of water resources infrastructure across the UMB pose an important contrast that may result in differential responses to climate, land use and sustainability challenges. Despite these differences, future outcomes in the border region are interwoven due to the economic, political, social and natural resources linkages. Achieving water sustainability in the UMB will require trained professionals that have expertise in hydrologic science/engineering and water resources management in both countries. The UMB-WEST project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program. This program had a duration of three years (2012-2014) and is currently in hiatus until new funding is obtained. Please check back for updates.

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Field Site and Purpose:

Rio Sonora Watershed:

Located in the state of Sonora in Mexico, ASU students and faculty will work with collaborators from the Universidad de Sonora, Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora, and Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez to quantify the ecohydrological processes during the North American monsoon. Students will work to strengthen the regional network of precipitation, soil moisture and evapotranspiration instruments with the goal of assessing the dynamics of summer season vegetation green-up. Field work will also include taking plant measurements to quantify how plants use water and social surveys to learn how local people perceive their water use, availability, and water sustainability. Through this campaign, students will be staying in three cities in Sonora, Mexico: Hermosillo, Ciudad Obregón and Rayón. Students will also visit important hydrological sites in the region such as El Molinito, an important reservoir for the city of Hermosillo's water supply, and El Novillo dam and reservoir. Tours include a pumping station and reservoir filled by the Independence Aqueduct, which delivers water from El Novillo reservoir to the city of Hermosillo.


(1) Train students on field hydrologic measurements useful for water resources management.

(2) Expose students to local water resources infrastructure and decision makers.

(3) Relate these experiences to hydrologic modeling and remote sensing techniques that advance the state-of-the-art in professional hydrologic practice.

To accomplish these objectives, we will visit water infrastructure sites that are under construction or completed for enhancing water supply to the capital of Hermosillo, Sonora, and to carry out a program of traditional instruction and peer-to-peer mentoring on water and environmental sustainability. Field experiments will take place to further understand the hydrological processes during the North American Monsoon season and consequently, the water availability in Sonora. The UMB-WEST program will advance hydrologic science and engineering in the Rio Sonora and train a large group of water resources students on border water issues. Contributions from this effort will also advance the study basin as a rural, international observatory useful for remote sensing validations, hydrologic model evaluations and as a laboratory for water sustainability science.

Visits and Talks:

The new storage reservoir for the aqueduct into Hermosillo
Control room for wells in the Yaqui Valley

2012 Campaign

The group was in Mexico for two weeks and the campaign was split into two parts each consisting of one week. The first week was spent meeting with government officials, city managers, and water users to gain a better understanding of how water in Sonora is being managed and why it is being managed that way. The group met with representatives from different groups who are fighting over water. The discussion primarily revolved around a controversial plan to build an aqueduct that will remove water from the Yaqui River system in order to supply the capitol city of Hermosillo with water. The group met with and listened to farmers and water managers from both regions in an effort to understand the complex issues surrounding water use in Sonora.

The Independence Aqueduct leading from El Novillo Reservoir
The group touring El Novillo Dam

2013 Campaign

Participants spent two weeks in and around Sonora, Mexico. During the first week, the group met with various stakeholders and policymakers with an interest in the water management and infrastructure in the state of Sonora. The meetings were focused on the ongoing water dispute between the two major water users in the region: the city of Hermosillo and the Yaqui Valley Irrigation District, which includes Cd. Obregón. In 2012, the discussion revolved around the plan to build the Independence Aqueduct, which has since been constructed and is currently in operation. Consequently, the group was able to see first hand the legal and social ramifications that have emerged from the completion of the aqueduct.

Boat ride to a mangrove swamp in the Sea of Cortez
Gauging the discharge of the Rio Sonora

2014 Campaign

A year into the operation of the Independence Aqueduct, participants were able to speak with water officials and decision makers about the current situation and the impact the aqueduct has had on society, infrastructure and future management projects. The meetings were held in the cities with more involvement in the water dispute: Hermosillo and Cd. Obregon. The group also had the opportunity to meet with farmers and university professors to better appreciate their role in the ongoing water-use conflict.

Field Work:

Students moving the static chamber dome.
Determining soil moisture at the buffel grass site.

2012 Campaign

The second week of the campaign was spent in the small town of Rayón. Here the group conducted numerous hydrologic experiments in several different sites. One team was primarily doing soil moisture experiments and working with a new technology called COsmic-ray Soil Moisture Observing System (COSMOS). The goal was to test COSMOS against our manual soil moisture measurements and to effectively calibrate the COSMOS probe. Data from the COSMOS sensor can be obtained at: Buffel Grass SiteAnother team was conducting ecohydrological experiments on another site called the EC tower. There the conductance of the leaves of different species were measured and the evaporation rate at various height was monitored. These experiments were carried out several times every day to obtain the performance of local ecosystem on diurnal scale. In addition, soil samples were collected from bare soil and shaded area in order to realize the impact of shrubs on soil moisture. The third and final team was working with a static chamber dome to measure carbon dioxide and water vapor fluxes to better understand the effect of plants on the water cycle.

The team constructing the weir.
Participants launching a weather balloon.

2013 Campaign

During the second week in Sonora the group conducted hydrologic field experiments to better understand water and energy fluxes in the Rio Sonora basin. This data and information is critical to help inform the water management decisions. Within these studies, the group quantified all aspects of the hydrologic cycle at small scales for later application to a larger watershed scale. The team performed experiments at two locations within the Rio San Miguel sub-basin, the small town of Rayón at low elevation and a high elevation location representing an oak savanna landscape. Experiments at Rayón included plant water potential measurements, stomatal conductance measurements, leaf area index (LAI) measurements, and COSMOS soil moisture calibration. Experiments at the oak savanna site included plant water potential measurements, installation of sapflow sensors, LAI measurements, installation of soil moisture and temperature sensors, installation of a weir, and rainfall interception measurements. Additionally, participants collected atmospheric data using weather balloon radiosondes. The group also performed a community water use survey to assess water use practices and perceptions of the people living in the Rio San Miguel sub-basin.

Using seismic refraction to determine depth to the water table.
Measuring the spectra of light reflected from local plants.

2014 Campaign

During the second week of the campaign participants carried out several experiments in and around the town of Rayón. The group focused on understanding the hydrological cycle during the North American Monsoon. These experiments included plant water potential measurements, soil moisture sensing, and the deployment of a mobile eddy covariance tower in an agricultural field. The purpose was to analyze water fluxes in a peanut field, which may lead to inferences about the affects of land use change on the hydrological cycle. A hydrogeophysical survey was conducted to find groundwater levels around Rayón. Additionally, participants installed a weir to measure runoff, conducted a topographic survey, field spectrometry of key plant species, collected aerial images from both a balloon and quadcopter, and conducted a water use survey of residents from nearby towns.

Participants in Summer 2012:

Enrique Vivoni, Agustin Robles-Morua, Jiachuan Yang, Tiantian Xiang, Luis A. Mendez-Barroso, Kelsii Dana, Adam Schreiner-McGraw, Jaleila Brumand, Mariela Castaneda, Sarah Cronk, Huntington Keith, Rud Moe, Dustin Pearce, Daniel Che

Participants in Summer 2013:

Enrique Vivoni, Giuseppe Mascaro, Adam Schreiner-McGraw, Tiantian Xiang, Nolie Pierini, Ara Ko, Jorge Cazares-Rodriguez, Kristen Whitney, Amanda Orozco, Seth Morales, Matthew Thompson, Michael Bierwagen, Alyssa McAlister

Participants in Summer 2014:

Enrique Vivoni, Theodore Bohn, Nolie Pierini, Jorge Cazares-Rodriguez, Luis Mendez-Barroso, Natasha Reeves, Jorge Olivas, Nick Gauthier, Katherine Boot, Drew Eppehimer, Courtney Anderson, Vivianna Gamez-Molina