Reclamation Sponsors Research Aimed at Measuring Evaporation

Media Contact: Mary Perea Carlson, (505) 462-3576

For Release: August 15, 2006

Federal water officials report that a research project under way along the Rio Grande near Albuquerque, NM could lead to more accurate estimates of natural evaporation losses along the river; including a development that would lead to improved river modeling.

Researchers from Reclamation's Albuquerque Area Office are working with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Iowa on the project. Researchers deployed the scanning Raman Light Distance and Ranging (LIDAR) laser earlier this month with cooperation from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the Rio Grande State Park.

The Raman LIDAR system works by sending a laser beam into the air and recording how much light is reflected back from water molecules in the atmosphere.

The University of Utah is also assisting with soil evaporation measurements and micro-meteorology, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's-ARS is assisting with instrumentation and data analysis.

The research will allow better management of the annual water supply by providing water managers with more accurate estimates of the natural evaporation depletion losses from the active channel surface flows and exposed soils. Evaporation from the river along with transpiration by the riparian and agricultural communities (ET) represents about two-thirds of the total losses from the system of surface water between Cochiti Reservoir and Elephant Butte Reservoir.

The research and data collection will be ongoing through August 18, 2006. The research may be repeated again next year depending on need and available funding.

Reporters wishing to get a first-hand look at the system at work must call Mary Carlson at (505)462-3576 or (505)270-9565 to coordinate the visit.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.