On the flow of Rio Don Fernando…

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This is the second year we take the Math/Science classes from Chrysalis to the neighboring Río Don Fernando de Taos to learn how to calculate CFS (cubic feet per second).  We keep a notebook that has the results of our measurements from last year as well.  It is an interesting exercise to see when the water starts flowing, how much is flowing, how much it increases over time, and when it ends.  The graph below shows our results for the time same time frame over the years of 2013 and 2014.

20140403-092418.jpgWhat is striking about these results is, first of all, how much less water we are starting out with than last year, which was also considered a dry or “drought” year.  We were really intent on measuring the river flow on the same day as last year which was March 18.  On this day, our calculations of CFS came out to exactly half of what the measurements were exactly one year earlier.  Another striking observation is that when we measured the flow on the day the acequias were open (indicated by the data point surrounded by a circle), we ended up losing all water flow in the river this year.  Last year on the day we opened the acequias, there was still downstream flow in the river in an amount that exceeded our baseline flow this year.

It is a relevant exercise to teach students how to measure the river, and just as relevant to understand what these observations might mean to correlations to snowfall in the upper watershed, impacts that could be related to climate change and drought, and just an understanding of how the riverflows respond to irrigation schedules, snowmelt, and other factors…  The next step will be to correlate these observations to snowpack data and create some type of metric that can relate how much water we will see in the river for how long as it relates to precipitation data from the winter prior to the spring and its following growing season…

2 Responses

  1. Rich Schrader

    Cool, thanks for sharing this Miguel.


    River Source cell/work: 505-660-7928 River Source http://www.watershedwiser.org – data sharing for citizen scientists

    On Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 8:15 AM, Sol Feliz Farm & AIRE wrote:

    > Miguel posted: “”

  2. Rio Fernando starts flowing | Sol Feliz Farm & AIRE

    […] Today I drove by the familiar bridge on Witt Rd and saw water coming down the river.  It seems early for this to happen, remembering that early in my life the river would flow year round.  The sight of water reminds me that we are on the verge of Spring and that soon I need to be preparing to plant early spring crops like alberjon (peas) and habas (fava beans).  It also reminds of the upcoming irrigation season and the cleaning of acequias.  How long will the water last this year?  My guess, especially with the early river flow, is that we can only count on irrigation until about June, if even.  But it is still early in the season and it could still snow in the mountains to supplement our waters.  It could also be a rainy season which could make for good agricultural production even if there is not flood water for irrigation.  I wish I had more time and resources to monitor the river and look at day to day flows, graph them in units of CFS (cubic feet per second), and make better predictions on our flows and the dynamics around the snowmelt.  You can see a post from 2014 that the river started to flow in March of that year (https://solfelizfarm.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/rio-don-fernando-starts-flowing/).  In that year we were able to take measurements which were compared to flows in 2013, you can read that post here:  https://solfelizfarm.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/on-the-flow-of-rio-don-fernando/ […]

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