eNews September 2019

Meet the Researcher: Kenneth C. Carroll, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University

By Carolina Mijares, NM WRRI Program Manager

Associate Professor Dr. Kenneth C. Carroll began his career at New Mexico State University (NMSU) in March 2013, as an Assistant Professor of Geohydrology and Environmental Science in the Water Science & Management Graduate Degree Program and Department of Plant & Environmental Sciences. Prior to this appointment, he held a research scientist position with the Environmental Systems Group at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). At PNNL he supported subsurface contamination cleanup efforts at the Department of Energy (DOE) Hanford Site, which included applied research for technology development and feasibility/treatability assessments. He supported the development of mass flux measurement and analysis for assessing contamination remediation, which lead to a framework for determining remediation closure criteria for soil vapor extraction. He also conducted research that involved numerical-modeling code comparisons for CO2 sequestration, including both trapping mechanisms and geomechanics for CO2 leakage risk analysis. Dr. Carroll and collaborators invented and developed novel methods to increase production of enhanced geothermal energy.

Before joining PNNL in 2010, Carroll worked in industry gaining hydrology and geochemistry consulting experience focused on some of the largest metal mines located in Australia, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, and the United States. Additionally, he completed a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Arizona where he investigated subsurface heterogeneity impacts on groundwater remediation performance.

Dr. Carroll obtained his PhD in 2007 in Hydrology and Water Resources and a minor in Soil, Water, and Environmental Science from the University of Arizona; he recieved his MS in 1999 in Aqueous/Environmental Geochemistry from Ohio University. Some of Dr. Carroll’s research interests include advancing our understanding of water supply and water quality in arid regions; the development of innovative water resources, environmental-remediation, carbon-capture, energy production alternatives, and the development of novel approaches for characterization of contamination natural attenuation and active-remediation enhancement.

Since joining the Department of Plant & Environmental Sciences at NMSU, Dr. Carroll has been supporting the environmental and soil science focus areas of the department. His teaching and research background and interests cover a broad range of areas that pertain to the coupling of hydrobiogeochemical processes that mediate exchange of water and chemicals between the hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. He has been developing field, laboratory, and simulation approaches for evaluating the influence of human activities on chemical cycling in environmental systems. He utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to both research and teaching, which he believes is important for understanding complex issues and coupled processes in the environment.

The NMSU University Research Council awarded Dr. Carroll the Early Career Award in 2013 for exceptional achievements in creative scholarly activity. He was also presented with the Patricia Christmore Faculty Teaching Award for superb junior faculty excellence in teaching at NMSU. Dr. Carroll received outstanding reviewer status for Journal of Contaminant Hydrology; he is the associate editor for three journals (Journal of Hydrology X, Journal of Hydrology, and Journal of Contaminant Hydrology). Dr. Carroll published a hydrogeology textbook; was Elected Chair for the Groundwater Technical Committee of American Geophysical Union Hydrology Section; and became the C. Herb Ward Family Endowed Interdisciplinary Chair in Environmental and Water Science. As PI and co-PI, Dr. Carroll has directed research projects greater than $3 million (in addition to greater than $1 million while at PNNL prior to 2013) funded from DOE, DOD, NASA, USDA, BoR, USGS, state of NM, and NM WRRI.

Dr. Carroll recently received two $300,000 grants from the DOE to work with national laboratories to characterize the migration of contaminants within surface water and groundwater to advance our understanding of how water flow and contaminant transport affects our ecosystems. One of the grants is in collaboration with researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory focusing on the clean-up of legacy mercury that was accidentally released while helping to develop nuclear weaponry and isotopes for energy production. Carroll’s group is characterizing surface water/groundwater exchange hydrology, which supports the contamination clean-up efforts. The other new grant is in collaboration with researchers at the PNNL to help clean-up the contamination in the subsurface of the Hanford Site located in Washington State. Carroll’s group is looking at the processes that naturally decrease concentrations, and then enhance those processes in the subsurface to speed-up the clean-up.

Dr. Carroll and his team have also been conducting research at NMSU in the development of innovative water resources funded by Bureau of Reclamation (BoR). Part of this program included an Evaluation of Source Water, Extraction Potential, and Potential Impacts of Using Brackish Water for Desalination in New Mexico, which was funded by BoR and the USDA Southwest Hub for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change.

In 2018, Dr. Carroll received a two-year grant through the NMSU and BoR Cooperative Agreement, which is administered by the NM WRRI. He and his NMSU research colleagues, Pei Xu, Phil King, and Brian Hurd, are working on a project entitled, Isotopic, Geochemical, and Modeling Evaluation of Source Water, Extraction Potential, and Potential Impacts of Using Brackish Water for Desalination in the Mesilla Basin, NM. The research objective is to characterize the fresh and brackish groundwater system in the Mesilla Basin, and assess the impact of brackish production for desalination on fresh water sustainability.

For the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (with USGS and NM WRRI), Carroll’s group developed a dissolved gas sampling device enabling noble gas isotopic age dating of groundwater to evaluate recharge and water use sustainability. They have similarly compared isotopic signatures in the groundwater to analogous isotopic signatures in the aquifer minerals to characterize the dissolution of evaporite minerals as a major source of salinity in groundwater, which is being considered as a source of water for a proposed new desalination plant. When the project is completed, a final report will be posted on the NM WRRI website.

eNews September 2019

WRRI Funds NMSU Faculty Blair Stringam’s Investigation of Technology to Optimize Water Delivery and Reduce Water Waste

By Holly Brause, NM WRRI Research Scientist

Dr. Blair Stringam of NMSU’s Plant and Environmental Science Department was awarded a Faculty Water Research Grant for the 2019 -2020 project period. His project is titled, Developing a Practical and Robust Feedback Control System for Open Water Channels to Deliver the Correct Amount of Water to the Intended User at the Desired Time.

Water is a limited resource, so finding ways to reduce water waste is an urgent challenge. Stringam aims to do just that by developing a better system to deliver water through open channel conveyance systems.

Open channel water systems face a number of challenges that can result in delays in water deliveries and water loss. Some of these challenges include variability in supply and demand of water, sediment accumulation, vegetation growth in channels, and inconsistencies in channel dimensions.

Many open channel water delivery systems already have some automation equipment in place in order ensure timely deliveries. Stringam will further optimize these systems by developing software that uses a feedback control computer algorithm to reduce water loss. The goal is to have a fully automated feedback control system that will efficiently operate open channel water conveyance systems.

Once the software is developed, Stringam will implement the open channel control routine here in Las Cruces on multiple reaches in the Elephant Butte Irrigation District. Field data will then be used to evaluate the performance of the software. Once perfected, this system could be used by diverse water user groups across the U.S. to operate their open channel delivery systems with minimal water loss.

eNews September 2019

ENMU Professor Awarded NM WRRI Faculty Water Research Grant

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Administrative Assistant

Dr. Ivana Mali, Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology at Eastern New Mexico University, has recently been awarded a 2019 Faculty Water Research Grant on behalf of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) funded through state appropriations. Dr. Mali will receive funding for this project entitled, Trophic and Dietary Overlap Study between Threatened and Common Riverine turtles in the Southeast New Mexico Using Stable Isotope Analyses.

This opportunity known as “seed money” offers New Mexico university faculty startup funding to perform studies which could provide new insights into water research and allow students to gain necessary field experience. As the project progresses, other funding opportunities may become available and provide substantial support in order to see the project flourish. In Dr. Mali’s study, she hopes to perform necessary research into learning more about a state threatened riverine species known as the Rio Grande cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi), which is currently severely understudied due to its limited habitat and the overall unawareness of the species.

According to Dr. Mali, she has been studying the Rio Grande cooter since 2016, and thus far, she and her students have been the only researchers to study this turtle in New Mexico. While her previous studies have provided her with useful information regarding the turtles’ demographics in a tributary of the Pecos River known as the Black River, this upcoming study will address important factors such as diet and trophic level specifics. Mali expects her research to greatly benefit state and federal natural resource managers as well as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Currently, the USFWS is reviewing the Rio Grande cooter as a possible candidate for federal protection, but due to limited information on such an evasive species, this is proving to be quite difficult. As Dr. Mali’s study progresses, she hopes to aid the USFWS by providing key statistics to help them reach a well-informed decision.

The performance period for Dr. Mali’s project will run from June 18, 2019 to June 17, 2020 with a final report due in the summer of 2020.

eNews September 2019

Community Science Initiative in a Northern New Mexico Drainage

By Lily Conrad, NM WRRI Research Graduate Assistant

In the month of September 2019, Andrew Black (NM WRRI), Omar Coronado Ramos (WSM MS student), and Lily Conrad (WSM MS student) traveled to northern New Mexico to begin installing cellular telemetry equipment at acequia monitoring stations throughout the Rio Hondo Valley, a drainage northwest of Taos. The goal of this study is to provide near-real time water quantity data that will be accessible to irrigators and acequia commissioners through a web interface. After a meeting with acequia mayordomos and commissioners, the study will be designed to help support the Valley’s acequia water sharing agreement over a trial period of the next two irrigation seasons.

The equipment will be installed in several sites throughout the Valley, between the communities of Valdez and Arroyo Hondo, periodically collecting water stage (elevation or height) and temperature data to be remotely sent to the interface via cellular towers. Community members and NMSU researchers plan to collaborate on site maintenance, data quality control, and analysis of system impact on water management.

Before the installation of this equipment, commissioners drove up and down the Rio Hondo manually checking flow values once per week. Once the new system is in place, each commissioner or shareholder will be able to independently have access to the same water resource information. As a result, the data will be used to create a database to assist with decision making for local needs and/or concerns. A more precise and consistent understanding of water quantity may help with water management decisions during low-flow periods.

eNews September 2019

NMSU Student Receives NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

In June 2019, Juliano Penteado de Almeida, a graduate student in the NMSU Department of Civil Engineering, received an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant entitled, Enhanced Water Recovery and Membrane Scaling Mitigation for Desalination Using Innovative Electromagnetic Field (EMF) and 3D Printed Open Flow Channel Membranes. The award was funded through the cooperative agreement between Reclamation and NMSU, Center for the Development and Use of Alternative Water Supplies. Juliano is working under the guidance of his faculty advisor Dr. Pei Xu, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at NMSU.

Depletion of fresh water resources, chronic droughts, growing population, and urbanization has increased the need for developing alternative water sources. Desalination of brackish groundwater provides opportunities to enhance water security by converting saline water into drinkable water. Given the growing demand for alternative water sources, there is a pressing need for more effective and less expensive desalination methods.

The objective of this project is to develop an innovative High Recovery Reverse Osmosis (HRRO) system to treat brackish groundwater which is a critical water source, and provides a reliable, drought-resistant alternative water supply to address water shortages in arid and semiarid regions including New Mexico and the southwestern United States. The HRRO is expected to significantly reduce chemical demands, operational costs, energy, and negative environmental impacts.

The research for this project is being developed at the Environmental Laboratory at NMSU. Testing of the innovative HRRO process is planned to take place in Santa Teresa, NM, which is experiencing drastically reduced surface water supplies, declining groundwater quality and quantity, and the cumulative effects of more than a decade of drought conditions.

“We have been running experiments that are demonstrating the effectiveness of EMF to produce drinkable water using less chemicals than conventional systems. The results are very promising and we are very excited with this research,” explains Juliano. At the 64th Annual New Mexico Water Conference in November 2019, Juliano will be presenting his research during the poster session.

Juliano received a BS in Civil Engineering, a Specialist Diploma in Environmental Management, and an MS in Sanitary and Environmental Engineering from the State University of Ponta Grossa, located in his home country of Brazil. Juliano expects to complete his studies at NMSU and graduate with a PhD in Civil Engineering in May of 2021. After graduation, Juliano plans on continuing his research on desalination and its water security applications, an area he believes is essential to sustainability.