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Community Water December 2020 eNews

NMSU publication culminates 10-year study of acequia systems

NMSU publication culminates 10-year study of acequia systems

By Jane Moorman,  NMSU Marketing and Communications

LAS CRUCES – An in-depth study of centuries-old community acequia systems in northern New Mexico reveals why they have been resilient.

Since 2010, researchers from New Mexico State University, University of New Mexico, and Sandia National Laboratory have studied hydrology and cultural aspects of the of El Rito, Rio Hondo and Alcalde acequia systems.

“We wanted to understand the many facets involved in the operation of these systems and what contributes to their resiliency, not just the hydrology,” said Sam Fernald, professor in NMSU’s Department of Animal and Range Sciences. “I think we found out some of those, including the importance of the culture of the community.”

Fernald is the principal investigator of “Acequia Water Systems Linking Culture and Nature: Integrated Analysis of Community Resilience to Climate and Land Use Changes,” a research project funded by a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

All around the world, community-based flood irrigation systems, owned and managed by self-organized farmers, deliver the natural resource of water to sustain agriculture during scarce or uneven yearly rainfall. The New Mexico Acequia Association estimates 640 small-scale systems exist throughout New Mexico.

The researchers learned that the acequia system creates a responsive mechanism for the entire community to interact with the landscape and develop a specific water management approach.

“As the neighbors work together to maintain the ditches, a cultural aspect develops that provides cohesion for the community,” said Steve Guldan, NMSU’s professor and superintendent of the Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde.

“We learned how adaptable the system is to respond to the environmental situations. Even if it is a dry year, with not a lot of water available, the acequia commissions are able to keep the ecosystem alive. Then during wet years, they are able to expand and have a larger irrigated footprint,” Fernald said.

The 17 researchers working on the project represent 10 disciplines, including hydrology, natural resources, ecology, water management, agronomy, rangeland management, agricultural economics, anthropology, and global culture and society.

“We had a lot of community support during the gathering of data for the various studies,” Guldan said. “In the early stages, David Archuleta, an Alcalde community member and farm supervisor of NMSU’s science center, gained the trust of the local farmers, allowing us access to their property to perform our hydrological studies. That trust carried over to the social-cultural studies when they were asked to participate in group meetings and surveys.”

After establishing the collaboration between community and researchers, Fernald said, “We didn’t want to just get the data and leave. We wanted to give the results back to the communities that helped us with the research.”

NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences produced “Acequias of the Southwestern United States: Elements of Resilience in a Coupled Natural and Human System,” an eight-chapter, 90-page publication that reports on the various research findings.

The publication was edited by Adrienne Rosenberg of the Alcalde Center, with Fernald, Guldan, and José Rivera, professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico, serving as associate editors. It is available at https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/research/water/RR796/welcome.

“We are hoping this will provide the reader the ability to look at the whole system,” Fernald said. “It is not just about the hydrology system of surface water, groundwater and the river, but also the cultural aspects of the area.”

The chapter topics include the key concepts of a multi-disciplinary approach to acequias, cultural aspects of the Northern Rio Grande region, acequia ecosystems including surface water and groundwater interactions, role of livestock in supporting the communities, adaptation to drought, and acequia and community resiliency.

“The publication’s forward is by one of the leading acequia historians, Luis Pablo Martínez Sanmartín of Spain,” Fernald said. “He presents the global context of how this ancient system of irrigation has made contributions worldwide.”

The publication was presented during the New Mexico Acequia Association’s annual meeting in December.

The researchers are hoping the publication will be a tool for legislators and policymakers when making decisions regarding acequia systems.

In addition to the publication, scientists with Sandia Labs have brought all the data together into integrated models that set the framework for ongoing studies.

“We have a project on the Rio Hondo to provide data back to the community in real time,” Fernald said. “During our work with the communities, we realized that the acequia commissions could use the models to help make management decisions.”

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Community Water COMMUNITY WATER & WATERSHED MANAGEMENT

Rincon Arroyo Watershed Stabilization Project

The NRCS has awarded the Doña Ana County and its Flood Commission the first Planning/NEPA phase of a Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Operations Program for the Rincon Arroyo Watershed. Partners to the project include the NM WRRI, BLM, EBID, and the Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District. This phase aims to create a watershed plan to address the root cause of flooding, vegetation loss in the uplands that scour soils and transport sediment, which in turn clogs downstream riparian areas and over 19 miles of agricultural infrastructure, and overwhelms downstream flood control infrastructure.

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Community Water COMMUNITY WATER & WATERSHED MANAGEMENT

NM WRRI Water and Community Collaboration Lab

The NM WRRI Water and Community Collaboration Lab (WCC-Lab) aims to foster links between the best science, communities, and stakeholders to inform water and environmental decision-making. The WCC-Lab’s goals focus upon collaboratively developing and testing innovative and feasible approaches to the complex issues of water supply and usage in New Mexico. Results of our pilot projects in the Hatch and Mesilla Valley and the Rincon Arroyo watershed within the Valley, have led to funding of several projects by grants that are highlighted on this website

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Community Water COMMUNITY WATER & WATERSHED MANAGEMENT DROUGHT PREPAREDNESS

Hatch and Mesilla Valley Drought Resiliency Project

Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID) was selected for award for the Reclamation WaterSMART Drought Response Program. The project entitled, EBID Drought Resiliency Priority Projects: Watershed-scale Stormwater Monitoring and Capture proposes to address program tasks of a) increasing the reliability of water supplies through infrastructure improvements, through stormwater capture and aquifer recharge and b) projects to improve water management through decision support tools, modeling, and measurement, through increased system monitoring and a model decision support tool. NM WRRI will lead the development of an integrated system dynamics model decision-support tool, which will assess the systems’ water balance and related socio-economic data that allows for long-term future trend projection of the effect of stormwater supplies and a scenario of watershed-scale stormwater harvesting.

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Community Water

Rincon Subbasins 319 Project

The NM WRRI has been selected for award by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) for a Watershed Implementation grant funded by EPA Clean Water Act Section 319 funds. The Rincon Sub-basins 319 Project implements a watershed restoration plan with the primary objective to reduce sediment transport including E. coli to the impaired reach of the Rio Grande through small-scale, low impact restoration practices. This project will also inform future project proposals within the larger Rincon Arroyo Watershed.

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Community Water COMMUNITY WATER & WATERSHED MANAGEMENT

Outreach and Technical Support

By organizing conferences and workshops such as the Annual New Mexico Water Conference—held each year since 1956—the Animas and San Juan Watersheds Conference, as well as an array of technical workshops, NM WRRI provides a forum to share water research findings, inform stakeholders, and ultimately address the pressing water issues facing New Mexico and the southwest.

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Community Water COMMUNITY WATER & WATERSHED MANAGEMENT

Clean Drinking Water Technology

Dr. Antonio Lara and the Clean Drinking Water Team from New Mexico State University establish technologies for the treatment of heavy metals and pathogens from scarce and contaminated water sources, surface and ground, to produce potable water. Investigation results show that clay ceramic pellets effectively treat and help solve the intractable problem of water contaminated by uranium in New Mexico. The technologies convert polluted water to potable water inexpensively and are usable worldwide.

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Community Water

NM WRRI Announces 2019 Student Water Research Grants

NM WRRI received 24 proposals in response to the 2019 Student Water Research Grant Request for Proposals ‒ 20 from New Mexico State University, two from New Mexico Tech, one from the University of New Mexico, and one from New Mexico Highlands University. Funding for 13 grants were made with state appropriations and three grants were made with Bureau of Reclamation-New Mexico State University Cooperative Agreement funding.

Johnson Adio, Natural Resources Management, NMHU, MS; (Dr. Jennifer Lindline)
Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment of the Rio Mora at the Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge, Mora County, NM

Isuru Sachitra Abeysiriwardana Arachchige, Civil Engineering, NMSU, PhD; (Dr. Nirmalakhandan)
Domestic Wastewater Treatment Using Algal Systems in Winter Climate

Alireza Bandegi, Chemical & Materials Engineering, NMSU, PhD; (Dr. Reza Foudazi)
Electrochemical-Assisted Ultrafiltration Membranes for Simultaneous Removal of As, Cd and Cr

Hengameh Bayat, Chemical & Materials Engineering, NMSU, PhD; (Dr. Umakanta Jena)
Wastewater Treatment Using Food Waste Char Obtained from Hydrothermal Liquefaction as a Low-Cost Adsorbent Material

Victoria Blumenberg, Animal & Range Sciences, NMSU, PhD; (Dr. Amy Ganguli)
Stable Isotope Analysis to Determine the Usefulness of Surface Water as a Proxy for Precipitation in a Semi-Arid, Mountainous Environment

Moticha M. Franklin, Chemistry & Biochemistry, NMSU, BS; (Dr. Antonio S. Lara)
Surface Area of a Local Clay Material to Elucidate Uranium Abatement for Potable New Mexico Water Management

Alyssa Latuchie, Economics, UNM, PhD; (Dr. Janie Chermak)
A Survey: New Mexicans’ Willingness to Pay for Produced Water Treatment for Beneficial Re-Use

Kimberly McNair, Biology, NM Tech, MS; (Dr. Linda DeVeaux)
Tracking CRE in the Rio Grande: Determining Correlation Between the Appearance of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in Surface Waters and Local Infection Rates

Esmaiil Mokari, Plant & Environmental Sciences, NMSU, PhD; (Dr. Manoj Shukla)
Developing a 2/3D Model for Improving Fertigation Scheduling Under Salinity Stress for Pecan

Srimali Preethika Munasinghe-Arachchige, Civil Engineering, NMSU, PhD; (Dr. Nirmalakhandan)
Assessment of Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs) Formation in Algae-Treated Wastewater for Safer Reuse in Unrestricted Applications

Juliano Penteado de Almeida, Civil Engineering, NMSU, PhD; (Dr. Pei Xu)
Enhanced Water Recovery and Membrane Scaling Mitigation for Desalination Using Innovative Electromagnetic Field (EMF) and 3D Printed Open Flow Channel Membranes

Jackson Powers, Plant & Environmental Sciences, NMSU, MS; (Dr. Ryan Goss)
Herbicide Phytotoxicity Under Drought Conditions in Warm and Cool Season Turfgrass

Madeline Richards, Earth & Environmental Sciences, NM Tech, MS; (Dr. Daniel Cadol)
Modeling Rainfall-Runoff Relationships in Conjunction with Sediment Transport Measurements in Ephemeral Channels

Michael Whiting (Gaurav Jha, student mentor), Geology, NMSU, MS; (Dr. April Ulery)
Monitoring Toxic Metal Uptake by Corn Grown in Agricultural Fields Across Animas and San Juan Rivers

Jiuling Yu, Chemical & Materials Engineering, NMSU, PhD; (Dr. Hongmei Luo)
Wasterwater-Treatment Algae-Derived Hydrochar for Heavy Metal Adsorption and Recycling

Muchu Zhou, Chemical & Materials Engineering, NMSU, PhD; (Dr. Reza Foudazi)
Design of Optimized Produced Water Treatment Units for the Agricultural Irrigation

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Community Water eNews January 2019

NMSU Graduate Student Investigates the Use of Plants to Remove Contaminants from the Gold King Mine Spill of Wastewater Into the Animas and San Juan Rivers

By Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Jason Fechner is a graduate student in the NMSU Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. He graduated in May 2018 with a BS in horticulture from NMSU. Jason received a 2018 NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant entitled: Gold King Mine Spill: Contaminant Removal of San Juan County Rivers via Phytoremediation.

The Gold King Mine Spill in 2015 contaminated the Animas and San Juan Rivers with heavy metals that affected multiple states including Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. This event had a tremendous impact on local farmers dependent on the Animas and San Juan Rivers for irrigation of their crops. There are also health concerns related to the plant and aquatic life in and around the contamination sites. Due to these concerns, remediation of these contaminated mining sites and river stretches is a priority issue. The main objective of this project is to explore the use of selected plants and their associated microbes for the removal and/or stabilization of contaminants deposited by the mine spill event. In this effort, Jason is working under the guidance of his faculty sponsors Dr. April Ulery, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Soum Sanogo, Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology, and Weed Science at NMSU.

Common duckweed (Lemna minor) is the plant chosen for this remediation project, as it is found throughout the United States and is known for its remediation ability as well as its high reproductive rates. It is an aquatic plant that grows on still or shallow, slowly moving waterways, and it is known to tolerate water contaminated with various toxins. For the Gold King Mine spill, there are multiple heavy metal contaminants of interest; however, the focus of the present study is the uptake of iron. Iron is one of the principal contaminants carried by the spill, and while it can be very toxic in high doses, it is also of interest because of its ability to form stable complexes (chelates) with other, more toxic contaminants. Accordingly, the focus of this project is to determine the extent to which duckweed is able to remove iron from an aquatic system. An attendant goal is the identification of bacterial and fungal species that are associated with the duckweed and may be partially or largely responsible for the chelation of iron.

To date, duckweed has been grown in various small vats under controlled conditions of lighting as well as nutrient and iron concentrations. Associated bacterial and fungi cultures have been isolated, grown, and samples analyzed using the genetic multiplication process known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The study results indicate that three different species of fungus are present, including Alternaria alternata, Plectosphaerella cucumerina, and Cladosporium tenuissimum. A review of the literature suggests that Alternaria alternata is most likely responsible for the plant’s iron uptake ability, as it can mycosynthesize iron nanoparticles.

A future, additional avenue of research for this project will include setting up the experiment again, but on a larger scale, composting the duckweed once the experimental trial is over, and growing Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushrooms) using the duckweed compost. The oyster mushrooms will be analyzed to see whether the fruiting bodies have absorbed any of the iron. If they do absorb iron, there will be an effort to determine how much is absorbed, how much is bound in the compost, and how much may have precipitated out of solution.

Knowledge of what types of plants can be used to remove or stabilize spill contaminants could prove very beneficial for water research and environmental agencies, especially since this approach is environmentally friendly, relative to conventional remediation methods. It is also potentially very cost effective, since it would reduce the burden of removal of contaminated material.

A native of Alamogordo, NM, Jason indicated that the NM WRRI grant has afforded him the opportunity to work with other scientists and to get their perspective on similar research. He has also been able to observe other field research studies underway on the Gold King Mine spill. He said, “The grant has provided funding for laboratory and other supplies pertaining to my research. After completing a master’s degree, I plan to continue my education and obtain a PhD. Eventually I want to work for a research university where I can train the next generation of scientists in the classroom and the lab.”

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Community Water