Amid a risk of the Rio Grande going dry through Albuquerque this summer and growing threats to the state’s water supplies, The University of New Mexico has named Scott Verhines to be the next director of the UNM Water Resources Program.
A New Mexico native, Verhines brings a lifetime of experience in water management to the job, culminating with service from 2011-2014 as New Mexico State Engineer and Secretary of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission – the state’s top water management jobs.
“Scott has worked on water resources challenges in every part of New Mexico for over three decades,” said UNM Dean of Graduate Studies Julie Coonrod, who oversees the program. “His experience ranges from holding public meetings with different interest groups in rural areas to serving as the State Engineer whose office is charged with administering the state's water resources. Verhines’ focus on community will further enhance the Water Resources Program."
Founded in 1991, the Water Resources Program is a post-graduate program focused on improving sustainable water management in New Mexico and the West, primarily through the education of the next generation of the region’s water managers.
The choice of Verhines extends the interdisciplinary approach to the program’s management set over the last five years by outgoing director John Fleck. Fleck, a water scholar, writer, and former journalist, used his work and connections as a bridge to the water management community.
UNM Economics Professor Janie Chermak, a longtime water researcher who headed the search committee, said Verhines was well-positioned to expand on that foundation. “Scott's background and experience brings a dynamic to the program that will allow it to enhance collaborations and build new partnerships across the state, while maintaining the exceptional educational opportunity that the program has always afforded WRP students,” she said.
Fleck agreed. “Scott’s connections and experience in New Mexico water management will be an amazing asset to the university community, especially the water resources students.”
Fleck, who has written two books about the Colorado River while affiliated with the Water Resources Program, is stepping down to work on a book about the past and future of water management on the Rio Grande.
In addition to his work in state government, Verhines has a 44-year career as a civil engineer working on water resource, transportation, and flood control and drainage projects. He has represented New Mexico on the Western States Water Council and has testified before the New Mexico Legislature and U.S. Congress on water issues. He holds a Master of Science in Civil Engineering and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of New Mexico.