Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Environmental Science and Engineering


W. S. Walker


The Rio Grande, from Elephant Butte Dam to El Paso, has been transformed from a free-flowing wild river into a highly engineered irrigation system. The Rio Grande Project, authorized by Congress in 1905, mandated the Bureau of Reclamation to store and deliver water exclusively to farmers. The river, maintained by the International Boundary and Water Commission, has been straightened and channelized between levees. The laws and policies governing the use of the waters of the Rio Grande are prohibitive to ecological restoration. Prior Appropriation doctrine allows for the exclusive use of these waters.

One sustainable tactic for replenishing the denuded riparian corridor is the "string-of-pearls" approach, where specific sites are chosen for riparian restoration. Selected areas could be developed producing a sequence of wetlands, much like a string of pearls. These efforts must incorporate the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability to be truly effective.

The City of Sunland Park, New Mexico has both land and water resources available for a constructed wetlands park. Their sewage plant discharges directly to the Rio Grande providing a steady, reliable stream of treated effluent that could be put to beneficial use. Migratory birds, indigenous flora and fauna, and people would again be drawn to the Rio Grande. In an economically disadvantaged area devoid of riparian features, a wetlands park could recreate one small green pearl in a landscape that was historically covered with riparian forests and wetlands. Potential benefits include improved water quality for the river, and the creation of an attractive park setting.

The goal of this investigation is to demonstrate the viability and sustainability of a constructed wetlands park utilizing treated sewage effluent. Cultivation of just one "pearl" could lead other communities to create new wetlands up and down the Rio Grande.




Received from ProQuest

File Size

122 pages

File Format


Rights Holder

Michael Earl Landis