Sustainability of Mountain Sources of Water for the Navajo Nation Under the Impact of Climate Change

EPA Grant Number: FP917506
Title: Sustainability of Mountain Sources of Water for the Navajo Nation Under the Impact of Climate Change
Investigators: Tsinnajinnie, Lani M
Institution: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: August 21, 2012 through August 20, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Hydrology


Through data collected by the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources (NNDWR) and through additional field data collected, the study intends to develop a coupled ground water/surface water hydrologic model that will synthesize data and improve the understanding of the hydrologic and environmental systems of the Chuska Mountains. The study will use the model to increase the understanding of how surface water and ground water in the Chuska Mountains interact, the role the Chuska Mountains play in recharging aquifers and generating streamflow, and how the surface water and ground water in the Chuska Mountains will respond to climate change and other environmental changes, such as land use/land cover.


The hydrologic model will be developed by using and coupling modeling programs such as the Precipitation Runoff Modeling System (PRMS) and MODFLOW. Climatic and hydrological data will be requested from the Navajo Nation and other agencies. Field observations, data collection and development of the model will provide a better overall understanding of the hydrologic systems in the Chuska Mountains. After the model is calibrated and tested, different climate and environmental scenarios, such as snowpack variability and land use/land cover changes, will be run by the model to estimate the impacts of climate change and other environmental changes to water resources of the Chuska Mountains.

Expected Results:

This model may assist Navajo communities to implement strategies that prepare the communities for impacts of climate change. Other tribes may be encouraged to develop similar hydrologic models to help understand the hydrologic responses of climate change in their area and how it may affect their communities. The information provided by these models could be coupled with local and traditional knowledge of tribal members in comprehending the impacts of climate change in their communities. Further understanding of the potential impacts of climate change created by this model will help the Navajo Nation look towards advancing the sustainability of the environment and communities. If tribal leaders and community members act proactively in preparing for climate change and become sustainable, they may no longer be seen as the most vulnerable populations to the changing climate.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection
Some benefits of this study include helping ranchers and farmers determine when and where there may be water shortages. For those communities that depend on ground water recharged from the Chuska Mountains, the model also will help inform how climate change would affect their sources of drinking water. Additionally, the hydrologic model will help identify how any water contaminants in the Chuska Mountains may be distributed.

Supplemental Keywords:

climate change, mountain hydrology, water resources

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • 2014
  • Final