The Doña Ana County Flood Commission – in conjunction with the National Weather Service and other entities – has installed the first series of rainfall monitoring stations in Doña Ana County, data from which is available for viewing on the Internet.
The strategic placement of the monitoring sites is designed to predict flooding and enable a warning system for residents who may be in danger.
Doña Ana County Flood Commission Director Paul Dugie said the warning system represents an ongoing investment that augments diversion structures and dam maintenance with tool for residents to monitor rainfall in upstream areas.
“Residents of low-lying areas already know that it can be dry as a bone where they live, but if heavy rainfall is occurring in upstream areas, they can be at risk for flooding when the arroyos run,” Dugie said. “We view this system as one more important tool to protect lives and properties.”
The rainfall gauges all send data to a central tower on A Mountain east of Las Cruces, and a transmitter on that tower relays the information to the Doña Ana County Government Center, where it’s posted onto the Internet at https://donaana.onerain.com.
Upon full implementation – which is estimated to be completed in 2017 – there will be 30 remote weather stations, stream gauges and water-level monitoring stations located throughout Doña Ana County, all of which will be linked to the National Weather Service and to other gauges in southern New Mexico and El Paso County.
“Not only will we be able to gather real time information with this system,” Dugie said, “but we’ll also be able to more closely track trends that will improve future forecast models.”
Dugie estimated that about $130,000 worth of equipment has already been integrated into the system, with an annual maintenance budget of about $30,000. In addition, he said his office has hired a flood warning system operator to oversee the system and its maintenance, both in the field and from the Doña Ana County Government Center.
In addition to Doña Ana County and the National Weather Service, other partners in the initiative include the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, the City of Las Cruces and New Mexico State University.
In addition to the rainfall gauges, a robotic camera has been acquired that can be used to monitor culverts for blockages and structural integrity, thereby improving the county’s ability to maintain and replace them before they fail. The robotic camera is attached to a specially equipped all-terrain vehicle that can access rugged areas in all kinds of weather.
The recorded information and camera images can be saved to a central database.