Doña Ana County



The Master Watershed Conservationist (MWC) program kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9, with the first of eight forums, entitled “The Future of our Watershed in the Hatch and Mesilla Valleys,” via Zoom, at

All interested in attending the event can also visit to access the Zoom link and register, through Thursday, Sept. 9. The forum will feature a panel of local ecological and resource specialists who will engage in discussions with the audience on visions for the future and the needs for watershed stewardship in New Mexico’s most southern Rio Grande watershed region. The event will also provide an introduction of the program, which aims to empower citizens to promote stewardship of our local watersheds.

Through the series scheduled over the next nine months, the program will also engage volunteers in making decisions and implementing conservation projects in New Mexico’s southern Rio Grande watershed. Connie Maxwell from the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) will provide an overview of watershed issues for the region and will moderate a discussion, which includes the following panelists:

  • Gary Esslinger, Manager, Elephant Butte Irrigation District
  • Jeff Witte, NM Secretary of the Department of Agriculture
  • Gill Sorg, City of Las Cruces Councilor
  • Kevin Bixby, Supervisor, DASWCD and Southwest Environmental Center Director
  • John Gwynne, Doña Ana County Flood Commission Director
  • Steve Wilmeth, local rancher, and
  • Don McClure, Bureau of Land Management.

This program comes at an important time for the Hatch and Mesilla Valley region, as watershed health is currently a critical issue for the resiliency of both our communities and ecosystems.

As drought and high temperatures are causing increased aridity and stressing vegetation and rangeland health in the uplands, monsoonal rains causing scouring floods are eroding soils into the valleys and overwhelming flood infrastructure. Reduced surface water availability is increasing use of and reliance on groundwater. As groundwater levels diminish, surface flows also decrease as they seep into aquifers that are less full, reducing stream health, at the same time the salinity becomes concentrated in the groundwater, thus irrigating with it leads to reduced agricultural productivity. This forum is convened in partnership with the Hatch and Mesilla Valley Watershed Plan -- a South Central NM Stormwater Management Coalition project with planning efforts led by NM WRRI – to inform the watershed plan with visions, ideas, data and issues discussed at this evening event.

Eleven community organizations have come together under the leadership of the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District (DASWCD) to organize the Master Watershed Conservationist volunteer program, including the Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District, City of Las Cruces, Doña Ana County Flood Commission, Elephant Butte Irrigation District, Natural Resource Conservation Service, New Mexico State University Extension, New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, Paso del Norte Watershed Council, Rio Grande Theater, and Spring Rains Consulting. The goal of the program is to promote the stewardship of southern New Mexico's Rio Grande watershed through equipping citizens with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions in the planning and management of the watershed, and engaging and empowering volunteers to play leadership roles, organize educational efforts, and implement conservation projects that address one or more critical conservation issues.

The MWC program is open to all persons in high school and older and is particularly intent on recruiting persons interested in committing to volunteer to do conservation work in the Rio Grande valley. In support of local health guidelines, the forums are currently planned via Zoom. When conditions change, registrants will be notified if future forums are in person.

For more information, please visit watershed-conservation-program/.

For more information about Doña Ana County, please visit

- ### -