eNews October 2020

Utton Transboundary Resources Center Completes Analysis on Regulatory and Legal Framework of the Produced Water Act

By Robert Sabie, Jr., NM WRRI Research Scientist

Each month NM WRRI is featuring an eNews article describing an individual research focus of the ongoing New Mexico Universities Produced Water Synthesis Project (NMUPWSP). This month we are featuring the research project entitled, Analysis of the relationship between current regulatory and legal frameworks and the “Produced Water Act,” being performed by Staff Attorney Stephanie Russo Baca and Research Assistants Ambrose Kupfer and Sarah McLain at the Utton Transboundary Resources Center.

The large volumes of produced water generated in New Mexico through oil and gas production every year remain a management challenge. According to the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (OCD), in 2019, 163,137 acre-feet of produced water was generated. One of the many challenges of managing produced water has been regulatory uncertainty. In order to overcome this challenge, New Mexico passed the Produced Water Act in 2019, formally known as House Bill 546, to provide jurisdictional and legal clarity.

The objective of the completed research project by Russo Baca and team was to enhance the dialogue of produced water legal and regulatory aspects in New Mexico. Specifically, their final report highlights how the Produced Water Act affects produced water reuse, ownership, water rights, liability, standard practices, fresh water conservation and protection, and changes to previous regulations.

The report explains the different roles of the OCD, Environment Department (NMED), and Office of the State Engineer (OSE), as well as the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) and United States Environmental Protection Agency in regulating produced water and ensuring the protection of the state’s precision freshwater resources. While produced water is currently only permitted for reuse or disposal within the oil and gas industry, the Produced Water Act tasked NMED and WQCC to establish standards based on scientific criteria for potentially using treated produced water outside of the oil field – a topic of much concern and continued discussion. Generally, these standards must protect the health of humans, animals, and the environment.

Another interesting point the report describes is how the Act encourages the oil and gas industry to reuse produced water for hydraulic fracturing, thus limiting freshwater use.  According to the report, “Any contract entered into, on or after July 1, 2019, is against public policy and void if it requires freshwater resources to be purchased for oil and gas operations when produced water, treated water, or recycled water is available and able to be used.” On May 6, 2020, OCD filed an application to amend rules to implement statutory additions to the Oil and Gas Act with a new requirement for disclosing and reporting of water use of all sources of water in the completion of the hydraulic fracturing of a well. The sources of water are classified by four categories: (1) produced water, (2) water other than produced water that has 10,000 or more mg/l total dissolved solids (TDS), (3) water other than produced water that has more than 1,000 mg/l TDS but less than 10,000 mg/l TDS, and (4) water other than produced water that has 1,000 mg/l TDS or less. This information would be helpful for better understanding water budgets and accounting of water use in New Mexico.

Changes to New Mexico’s regulation of produced water based on the passage of the Produced Water Act are forthcoming as the science, technology, and discussions of public acceptability move forward. This report will be made available on NM WRRI’s website in the next few months after peer-review.

eNews October 2020

Water Conference Session on October 27 to Explore the Nexus of COVID-19 and Water Access for Navajo Nation

By Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority reported that 30 percent of Navajo Nation homes lack access to piped water service. In many cases, occupants of these homes rely on hauled water as their primary source for water. Prior to strict isolation and contact tracing measures, COVID-19 has spread much faster among residents of the Navajo Nation than among residents of the surrounding states of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.

As part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed earlier this year, $5 million was appropriated by Indian Health Service (IHS) to support the Navajo Nation Water Access Mission, which includes the installation of up to 59 transitional water points, supplying up to 37,000 water storage containers, and providing up to 3.5 million doses of water disinfection tablets for residents living in homes with no running water access for the duration of the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.

Join us on Tuesday October 27, the first day of the general session of the 65th Annual New Mexico Water Conference, for a panel devoted to exploring the work of this mission and the longstanding challenges of water access in the Navajo Nation. This session entitled, Spotlight on Navajo Nation and the Nexus of Coronavirus and Water, will be moderated by Crystal Tulley-Cordova, Principal Hydrologist for the Water Management Branch of the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources. Presenters will include:

  • Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, who played an important role in securing the CARES Act funding for water access
  • To’Hajiilee Chapter President Mark Begay, whose community has faced water infrastructure challenges since before the pandemic
  • Captain David Harvey of the Indian Health Service, who has been coordinating Water Access Coordination Group activities

Following the panel discussion, there will be four breakout options allowing conference attendees to brainstorm and discuss opportunities for tribal communities across New Mexico to build water resource capacity. These breakout sessions will focus on the areas of university research benefits, tribal communities, government agencies, and non-profits. These breakout session discussions will serve as the basis for a follow up workshop in November.

Take advantage of our free registration for the duration of this year’s annual conference and join us for this and many other informative sessions taking place throughout October 26-29, 2020.

eNews October 2020

Crystal Tulley-Cordova, Principal Hydrologist, Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month for Meet the Researcher, we had the pleasure of interviewing Crystal Tulley-Cordova, Principal Hydrologist for the Water Management Branch at the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources in Ft. Defiance, Arizona (2018). The Navajo Nation is the largest Native American reservation in the United States, and is located in the southwestern Four Corners Region. According to Crystal, the most important aspect of her role as Principal Hydrologist is to protect and manage water resources across the Navajo Nation to ensure Navajo residents have access to safe water. She currently mentors students interested in STEM related fields through the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and also regularly presents on Navajo Nation water-related research projects.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Crystal has devoted a large portion of her time working with the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Water Access Coordination Group to help Navajo residents obtain access to safe drinking water. Crystal has stated that the primary focus of the group was to develop 59 transitional water points in Navajo communities in areas that do not have a permanent watering point, and to help educate Navajo residents about safe water collection and water storage programs. More information about this effort can be found here.

Crystal earned her BS in Earth and Planetary Sciences (2007), and Master of Water Resources degree in Hydroscience (2011) from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, under Laura Crossey and Bruce Thomson as her advisors respectively. She received her Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability (2018) under the guidance of Brenda Bowen, and earned her PhD in Geology (2019) under the advisement of Gabriel J. Bowen from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tulley-Cordova has over 18 years of research and professional experience. She was a Think Globally, Learn Locally Fellow, and helped integrate science curriculum into both elementary and middle school classrooms in Salt Lake City, Utah, and diligently studied as an intern and Graduate Research Assistant for several institutions.

For several years, Tulley-Cordova has been an important collaborator with the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI), and has participated in both the 64th and 65th NM WRRI Annual New Mexico Water Conference Tribal Working Groups. Crystal feels these opportunities have allowed her to thoroughly share her perspectives and ideas to help with conference planning. She would additionally like to express her appreciation to the NM WRRI for their successful Animas and San Juan Watersheds conferences, as they were beneficial to not only her graduate studies but also to her work as a Principal Hydrologist.

In her latest publication for the Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education (2018) entitled, Navajo Nation, USA, Precipitation Variability from 2002 to 2015, Tulley-Cordova’s research focused on investigating precipitation variability throughout the Navajo Nation. Crystal explains that Navajo people are quite familiar with bimodal precipitation patterns, but this research allowed her the opportunity to study different techniques used to quantify inter- and intra- annual precipitation variability. For those interested in this research, please click here for more information.

In addition to her research responsibilities, Crystal is a Sequoyah Fellow in the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and a member of three professional affiliations, which are comprised of the Geological Society of America, Colorado River Water Users Association, and the Association for Women Geoscientists. Crystal has also undertaken several leadership roles to support her community and has served as a mentor and representative for graduate students of local societies, science fair judge, camp instructor, and has volunteered her time to promote the learning of future researchers at college events within her area.

Tulley-Cordova’s research and expertise has been featured in several media and science outlets, including documentaries, magazines, technical reports, podcasts and newspapers. She has been interviewed for several issues of Indian Country Today, and the Navajo Times. Currently, Crystal and her colleagues have a manuscript in preparation to be published entitled, Stable isotopes in precipitation and associated waters: Recording the North American Monsoon in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

Throughout her career, Crystal has been invited to speak at a wide variety of conferences, research centers, and higher education institutions. One of her most recent presentations entitled, Addressing water challenges in the Navajo Nation, was given virtually for the Native Waters in Arid Lands COVID-19 Meeting in 2020. To accompany her official invites, Crystal also volunteers to give presentations on her current research findings, and personal experiences to locations all around the country. At this time, she has offered her expertise to over 50 events.

Crystal has been the recipient of 14 honors and awards throughout her career. In 2017, she was presented the American Indian Science and Engineering Society Graduate Student Poster Award in Water Management, and the Graduate Student of the Month Award for the American Indian Graduate Center. Tulley-Cordova has also been recognized for her efforts by earning several fellowships and travel grants. Recently, she was awarded the Native American Natural Resources Research Scholarship (2018), Cobell Graduate Scholarship (2017), and the American Chemical Society’s Women Chemists Committee Travel Award (2017).

When asked about her future goals, Crystal stated that she would like to be a vocal, and well-informed water advocate committed to solving the southwestern United States’ most pressing challenges in innovative and collaborative ways. She has many research projects in the works for the upcoming year, which will be seeking the collaboration of several federal, state, tribal, and other academic partners. These research opportunities will be centering on a wide variety of topics including a study on desalination, watersheds, and the COVID-19 nexus with water. As a parting message, Crystal would like to emphasize the importance of the Navajo phrase, “Tó éí iiná áté”, which means water is life.

eNews October 2020

ENMU Student Awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to Study Reservoir Release Impact on Pelagic-Spawning Minnows

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

The Pecos River in New Mexico is home to pelagic-spawning minnows. These minnows are called pelagic-spawning because they release eggs directly into the water column. As the eggs are released and fertilized, they drift downstream. These fish rely on water temperature and stream flow as environmental cues to initiate spawning; however, dam construction has fragmented the Pecos River and it no longer resembles the historical environmental conditions in which these fish evolved. The effects of unnaturally timed reservoir discharge may interrupt the continuous flow required for pelagic-spawning minnows.

Richard Raymondi, a graduate student at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU), has been awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to test his hypothesis that sustained high flows will negatively affect egg and larval survival for the pelagic-spawning minnow on the Pecos River.

Under the guidance of his faculty advisor Dr. Jesse Filbrun, Raymondi’s project will use a 1,500 gallon stream tank to mimic velocities observed during high-flow reservoir releases and determine if the timing and magnitude of reservoir release is detrimental to eggs and larvae of pelagic-spawning minnows. Plains Minnow specimens have already been collected from the Pecos River and transported back to the Behavior Ecology Lab at ENMU for observation under captivity and to complete spawning tests. The minnows will be fed, separated, and injected with a commercial spawning agent. After spawning occurs in designated aquaria, eggs will be collected using a sieve, counted, and measured. To test the effects of discharge on egg survival, three stream simulation treatments will be conducted in the stream tank using the fertilized eggs. Stream flows for each treatment will be set to mimic a range of flows, replicating velocities directly measured from U.S. Geological Survey gage stations in the Pecos River. Lastly, survival and growth rates in the stream tank experiment will be compared among flow treatments.

The project entitled, Investigating the effects of flow on growth and survival of larval pelagic-spawning minnows of the Pecos River, NM, was presented at the Southern Division-American Fisheries Society meeting in February 2020, and according to Raymondi, will help provide insight to natural resource managers about the potential impacts of reservoir releases on native fish in the Pecos River. As Raymondi explains, “This study will provide natural resource managers information to implement policies that will mitigate potential impacts of management decisions. Water management decisions in New Mexico are inherently complex and should account for the ecological consequences on native fishes. Implementing sound water management strategies benefit all forms of life in New Mexico.”

Originally from Boise, Idaho, Raymondi received his undergraduate degree from Boise State University and plans on graduating with a Master of Science in Biology from ENMU in 2021. After graduation, his goal is to be involved in conservation biology as a fisheries biologist. In Raymondi’s words, “Riverine systems of the Southwest United States are home to some of the most diverse ichthyofauna around, and so I would like to build a career that deepens our understanding of the unique wildlife found here.”

eNews September 2020

Watershed Restoration in the Rincon Arroyo Watershed

By Connie Maxwell, NM WRRI Graduate Research Assistant

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) awarded the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) a Watershed Implementation grant funded by the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act Section 319 , The Rincon Subbasins 319 Project. NM WRRI, in collaboration with the Stormwater Coalition, will work to bring the best science to better understand watershed dynamics develop tools for land managers to achieve watershed restoration to address regional flooding and water supply challenges. The NM WRRI is the grant recipient and project lead; other project collaborators include the Doña Ana County Flood Commission as the long-term manager of the project and member of the steering committee, the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, Bureau of Land Management, the Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District, and additional project experts as key personnel.

Floods scour soils and transport sediment, which in turn clog downstream riparian areas, agricultural infrastructure, and overwhelm downstream flood control infrastructure. A root cause of flooding is vegetation loss in the uplands exacerbated by droughts, growing aridity, and land management. The Rincon Subbasins 319 Project implements a watershed restoration plan in two subbasins of the Rincon Arroyo Watershed with the primary objective to reduce sediment transport that includes E. coli to the impaired reach of the Rio Grande through slowing flood flows and spreading them across the landscape. This project will examine restoration and management approaches that exploit storms that come in fewer and more intense events to achieve revegetation (Bestelmeyer et al. 2018; Holmgren et al. 2006). The restoration design was informed by the results from an innovative ecohydrologic modeling framework developed by Maxwell et al. (2020) that quantified the extent of restoration needed to build the watershed’s buffering capacity to disturbances such as flooding and droughts. The small-scale, low impact restoration practices will include constructing stone lines along contours, wire and brush lines along contours,f microcatchments, and one-rock dams to infiltrate storm runoff in two sub-watersheds totaling 180 acres. The project will compare flow dynamics, E. coli loading, and vegetation between treated and non-treated control subbasins to quantify and compare the effects of the restoration practices. The collaborative process and critical science provided by this project will support water managers and inform other projects across regional watersheds of the Hatch and Mesilla Valleys.


Bestelmeyer, B. T., D. P. Peters, S. R. Archer, D. M. Browning, G. S. Okin, R. L. Schooley, and N. P. Webb. 2018. The grassland–shrubland regime shift in the southwestern United States: Misconceptions and their implications for management. Bioscience 68:678-690.

Holmgren, M., P. Stapp, C. R. Dickman, C. Gracia, S. Graham, J. R. Gutiérrez, C. Hice, F. Jaksic, D. A. Kelt, and M. Letnic. 2006. Extreme climatic events shape arid and semiarid ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 4:87-95.

Maxwell, C.M., Fernald, A., Cadol, D., Faist, A.M., King, J.P., (in press) 2020. Managing flood flow connectivity to landscapes to build buffering capacity to disturbances: an ecohydrologic modeling framework for drylands. Journal of Environmental Management.

eNews September 2020

UNM Student Awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to Study Nutrient Impairment in Streams

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

Nutrient contamination poses a risk to water quality, ecosystems, and their functions. According to the 2018-2020 State of New Mexico Clean Water Act Section 303(d)/Section 305(b) Integrated Report, nutrient contamination is among the three most common causes of river and stream water quality impairment in New Mexico. Water quality impairments in small streams can propagate to larger rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Water quality impairment from nutrients can cause aquatic species to die and can even contaminate drinking water.

Jancoba Dorley, a PhD Engineering student at the University of New Mexico (UNM), is conducting experiments at the Valles Caldera National Preserve in order to better understand nutrient impairment. In June, Dorley was awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to analyze how biogeochemical interactions and complex transport dynamics influence the processing and export of nutrients in streams. Dorley’s project entitled, Transport and biogeochemical controls on nutrient retention along stream corridors, will be carried out under the guidance of his faculty advisor, Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez-Pinzon.

Dorley will be conducting four nutrient enrichment injections in the East Fork of the Jemez River to gain a better understanding of the geological, biological, and chemical interactions that influence nutrients in streams. After each injection, water samples will be collected and taken to UNM’s Environmental Engineering Laboratory to be analyzed. The nutrient enrichment injections will also contain a tracer that Dorley will use to monitor the transport properties that influence nutrient loading. Dorley will be paying particular attention to the hyporheic zone, a layer of sediment and porous space below the surface of the stream bed, where shallow groundwater and surface water mix.

The project aims to provide a new perspective on how to limit nutrient impairment in streams and rivers. According to Dorley, this research could help lower the high cost associated with restoring impaired ecosystems. Dorley states, “Understanding the relationships between nutrient transport and processing under different flow conditions will help us evaluate means to restore impaired streams, rivers, and lakes.”

Dorley, originally from Liberia, received a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering and a Master of Science in Hydrology from Pennsylvania State University. He is planning on graduating with his PhD in Engineering with a focus in Hydrology in the fall of 2021. After graduation, Dorley plans to continue in academia as a Professor. As a faculty member, Dorley plans to work on exciting new projects, mentor students, and educate them on the importance of environmental conservation.

eNews September 2020

NMT Researchers Upgrade Searchable Produced Water Database

By Carolina Mijares, NM WRRI Program Manager

Each month NM WRRI is featuring an eNews article describing an individual focus of the ongoing New Mexico Universities Produced Water Synthesis Project. This month we are featuring research being carried out by Martha Cather and Raven Goswick at the Petroleum Recovery Research Center (PRRC), New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT).

New Mexico, particularly the Permian Basin, has seen a rebirth in oil and gas activity in the past decade due to the development of unconventional resource plays. The increase of horizontal well drilling and hydraulic fracturing has resulted in a dramatic increase of water produced, hauled, and injected. The fresh and produced water used in these operations must be mapped out to understand the demand on freshwater resources in New Mexico, the effects of disposal of large volumes of produced water, and reuse efforts by operators.

The research being conducted by Cather and Goswick will result in a geospatial database of oilfield water volume information. The state of New Mexico provides water production and injection data on a monthly basis, by well. These data will be complied into a searchable database that will allow for spatiotemporal and stratigraphic analysis to illustrate in greater detail locations and volumes of water production and injection, thus gaining a better understanding of the overall “budget” for oilfield waters in New Mexico. Data will include volumes by month, disposition (produced or injected), location (latitude/longitude and section/township/range), current operator, and pool. Where available, additional information such as well type (horizontal, vertical, injection, saltwater disposal (SWD), or producing), spud date, completion date, perforation interval, the true vertical depth and measured depth. This database will be the basis for several other collaborative efforts including work with New Mexico State University on joining information with existing water quality data, with other researchers at NMT on examining impacts of injection to stress response in the Permian Basin, and with The University of New Mexico on their efforts to identify water and wastewater management trends. Another goal of this research is to establish collaborative efforts with operators/service providers to obtain detailed information not available from public sources on water usage, water compositions and recycling efforts. This connection will allow a comparison of public and operator/service providers data to begin a framework for a future risk assessment study.

The ultimate goal of the effort is to lay the groundwork necessary to make the produced water volume and quality data available online, easily searchable and accessible, and updated regularly. The database will be available to the public and will be linked to water quality data sources in the NM Produced Water Quality Database built and maintained by the NM PRRC.

eNews September 2020

Meet the Researcher, Richard Heerema, Extension Pecan Specialist and Professor, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

For this month’s Meet the Researcher, we had the opportunity to interview Richard Heerema, an Extension Pecan and Pistachio Specialist for New Mexico State University (NMSU) Extension Plant Sciences (hired 2005), and Professor (promoted in 2017) for the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at NMSU. Richard primarily researches new strategies to help improve pecan production issues faced by New Mexico pecan growers with a focus on alternate bearing, fertilizer usage, and irrigation. He also coordinates educational programs for pecan and other tree nut producers, and assists local orchardists by relaying new research aimed at improving production yield. Heerema states that he greatly values his close working relationships with pecan industry clientele, and feels his role allows him to acknowledge real challenges experienced by farmers and actively address these issues by utilizing university research efforts and extension education.

Heerema double majored in Biology and Agriculture, and Plant Science from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa in May 1998. He received his PhD in Plant Biology from the University of California (UC), Davis in September 2005 with his dissertation entitled, Compartmentalization of carbon and nitrogen stresses within almond spurs, under the advisement of Drs. Theodore M. Dejong, and Steven A. Weinbaum. Before attaining his current position at NMSU, he was a research assistant at Dry Creek Laboratories in Hughson, California (1998-2000) where he was able to work with new fruit and nut cultivars. After this appointment, Richard conducted his doctoral research at UC Davis (2000-2005), which focused on testing the branch autonomy hypothesis and its relation to almond spur carbohydrate storage, flowering, mortality and fruit set.

Currently, Heerema is working with the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) on a project entitled, Comparison of water movement in pecan fields under different irrigation scenarios; implications to the water cycle, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food Research Initiative under Coordinated Agricultural Projects. This research is being conducted at Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center and Stahmann Farms. At each location, two fields are being used for research purposes with one being drip irrigated, and the other being flood irrigated. Richard is the co-director of the project and is working with his colleagues to discover a more efficient water balance strategy that will provide information about where water is going, and what actions must be taken to develop better water management practices. Long-term goals for the project involve making projections about different irrigation methods for pecans in the Mesilla Valley, and the implications of them in relation to the water cycle. This project is especially important to pecan farmers because it will allow them to utilize the most effective irrigation practices to produce healthy, high quality pecans.

In addition to his NM WRRI project, Richard is currently mentoring a doctoral student (Curt Pierce) with his research on novel irrigation strategies for pecans, which includes partial rootzone drying and regulated deficit irrigation with a drip irrigation system. The project is entitled, Sustainable water resources for irrigated agriculture in a desert river basin facing climate change and competing demands: From characterization to solutions, and is being funded by an impressive USDA grant. This project is part of a multi-institutional endeavor with the University of Texas, El Paso, the University of New Mexico, and Texas A&M University.

Heerema is also a co-PI of another USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative grant, working with PI Dr. Jennifer Randall on a project entitled, Coordinated development of genetic tools for pecan. The main focus of this research is to sequence and annotate the pecan genome, identify genes of physiological and horticultural interest, and evaluate seedlings under various environmental conditions. Ultimately, results of this study will allow for a better understanding of pecan genetic development to aid in producing more profitable and efficient pecan orchards.

In another recent research development, Richard and his colleagues (Drs. Nicole Pietrasiak and Jennifer Randall) were funded through a competitive grant provided by the NMSU Agricultural Experiment Station to investigate the microbiomes of pecan roots. This involves analyzing fungi and bacteria that live in the soil on and around the root. Heerema and his team have studied several pecan orchards to gather valuable data that will allow New Mexico producers to better understand the composition of their soil and develop a more suitable environment for their trees.

Heerema’s additional research can be found in a wide variety of publications, presentations, and magazines. One of his latest articles entitled, Pecan Kernel Phenolics Content and Antioxidant Capacity Are Enhanced by Mechanical Pruning and Higher Fruit Position in the Tree Canopy, was published in May 2020 for the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science and is centered around the pruning of pecan orchards. Within this study, Richard and his researchers discovered that the mechanical pruning of pecan orchards improved their overall health and resulted in producing superior kernels. Heerema has also written extension publications, circulars and bulletins for several universities and programs. His most current article entitled, Zinc Management in Arid Region Pecan Orchards, was published by the University of Arizona Extension Guide in 2019.

Heerema has delivered presentations at a multitude of industry conferences, educational programs, and professional societies including Master Gardeners, Pesticide Applicators Workshops, Horticultural Science Conferences, and Pecan Grower’s Association Conferences. It is characteristic of him to present on more than one topic during an event and attend panel discussions with other researchers to broaden the scope of his research. His presentation entitled, Environmental Stress in Pecan Trees (with Freeze Injury as Example), was given at the 2020 Arizona Pecan Growers Association and is his latest presentation to date.

Over the course of his career, Richard has been recognized with several awards and honors. His latest accomplishments involve receiving the Educational Aids Blue Ribbon Award from the American Society for Agricultural and Biological Engineers (2019), and the Distinguished Extension Award given by NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (2017). Richard is also an active member in four professional societies consisting of the American Society for Horticultural Science, International Society for Horticulture Science, American Pomological Society, and the Western Pecan Growers Association where he is an honorary board member and assists in organizing their annual conference. He additionally coordinates for the Western Pecan Production Short Course, and has served as the Assistant Department Head for the Extension Plant Sciences Department since 2019.

August 2020 eNews

NMSU Student Receives NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to Study Soil Water Loss and Capillary Forces

NMSU Student Receives NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to Study Soil Water Loss and Capillary Forces

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

Soil can lose water through evaporation, percolation, and transpiration. Evaporation meaning water vapor lost to the atmosphere, percolation meaning the drainage/downward movement of water, and transpiration meaning water lost through the stomata of plant leaves. In arid and semi-arid regions, there can be even more soil water loss due to high temperatures and sandy soils.

Ryan Zowada, a Chemical Engineering student at New Mexico State University, was awarded an NM WRRI 2020-2021 Student Water Research Grant to explore how to decrease soil water loss by increasing capillary forces in the soil. The project entitled, Biodegradable Porous Hydrogel Water Retaining Additives Designed to Improve Irrigation Efficiency in Arid Climates, aims to add a biodegradable porous hydrogel to soil to act as a water reservoir. The hydrogel would absorb water during irrigation and desorb water during plant water uptake.

According to Zowada, hydrogels have shown they can improve water holding capacity and crop yields in inferior soil; however, the current cost required to apply an adequate amount of super-absorbent polymers in the soil isn’t very economical. One of the objectives of this project is to make the hydrogel porous, which would reduce the cost proportional to the porosity. The water holding capacity is not sacrificed by using porous hydrogels because capillary forces in porous structures increase water uptake and ease plant access to water. The porous hydrogels will also be biodegradable, which resolves the concerns about current super-absorbent polymers that eventually lose water holding capacity and build up in the soil over reapplication.

When asked about the expected results of the project and their significance, Zowada explained, “We expect to see an increase in water holding content for soils with either non-porous or porous hydrogel additives; however, we expect to see a higher increase in plant available water for the porous additive. We expect to see and evaluate a major increase in capillary action when the porous hydrogel is added to the soil compared to both non-porous sample and control soil. Finally, we expect to see a reduction in economic cost of hydrogel implementation by making 30 to 80 percent of the hydrogel volume air and thus improving its candidacy for agricultural practices.”

Zowada is conducting this research project under the guidance of his faculty advisor, Dr. Reza Foudazi, and plans on graduating in Spring 2021 with a PhD in Chemical Engineering. Zowada has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from NMSU, and has experience conducting research on heavy metal removal from drinking water. After he graduates, Zowada plans on continuing his research as a post-doctoral fellow with a focus on water applications.

August 2020 eNews

UNM Student Receives NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to Develop Smart Sensing Technology to Characterize Aquatic Ecosystems

UNM Student Receives NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to Develop Smart Sensing Technology to Characterize Aquatic Ecosystems

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

Climate change, drought, and water scarcity are critically important issues in the western United States. Answers to questions like how much water do we have, what is the quality of this water, how much water does our natural environment need, and how should water be shared are vital for the economy, the environment, and the standard of living in places like New Mexico.

To help answer questions associated with aquatic mass balances, mass-energy balances, and, most importantly, water management, Aashish Khandelwal has proposed the development of a novel smart sensing technology called The Navigator. Khandelwal, a Civil Engineering PhD student at the University of New Mexico (UNM), has been awarded an NM WRRI 2020-2021 Student Water Research Grant to work on his project entitled, Development of The Navigator: A smart sensing system to characterize aquatic ecosystems.

The Navigator aims to perform high-resolution sampling of water quality parameters over spatial and temporal scales that are currently unattainable, i.e., at the sub-minute scale and following natural flow currents. Currently, aquatic monitoring is performed by sampling the water that passes through a monitoring cross-section, such as a bridge or a weir. At the monitoring cross-section, grab samples or semi-continuous sensors monitor water characteristics at frequencies ranging from sub-minute to days. This type of sampling, referred to as Eulerian, is widely used but limited. The smart sensing system that Khandelwal and his team seek to develop, with the help of the NM WRRI grant, will feature a solar powered neutrally buoyant sphere instrumented with a GPS tracker and electrical conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, photosynthetically active radiation, pH, and oxidation-reduction potential sensors. The Navigator will allow scientists and engineers to monitor aquatic systems along reaches of hundreds of kilometers. Lagrangian monitoring will allow freshwater scientists to close the gap between ocean and freshwater ecology, which has been overly reliant on Eulerian monitoring.

According to Khandelwal, “The merit of this research will be an increased understanding of mass-energy balances underlying pattern and process of our water systems, and a predictive understanding of the responses of land use changes along river networks. New Mexico can become a hotspot for intellectual, economic, and social development if we focus on our uniqueness to offer innovative solutions to pressing problems on water resources, which are relevant across the planet…The information extracted from those sensors (data analytics) will transform the next generations through access to real-time information, improved forecasting, management, and smarter allocation of resources…Most importantly, aquatic sensor development will empower citizen-based science, which will increase access to difficult-to-collect data, and improve their processing, visualization, and communication.”

Khandelwal, a student in the Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Department at UNM, has begun work on this project under the guidance of his faculty sponsor Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez-Pinzon. Originally from Mumbai, India, Khandelwal received a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Mumbai University. After that, he received a master’s degree in Civil Engineering focusing on Water Resource Management, as well as and a master’s degree in Architecture focusing on water sustainability design at UNM. His Civil master’s research was focused on an innovative self-cleaning water quality sensor system (SC-FLAWLeSS) that allows for long-term, semi-continuous monitoring of water quality in fluvial systems. Khandelwal plans on completing his Interdisciplinary Engineering PhD in 2022, and after graduating plans on opening a startup that stimulates water technology innovations and focuses on transitioning research and development. Khandelwal plans to contribute to water-related innovations that can lead to revolutionary technological advances that will enable communities to better satisfy their needs.