Categories
eNews September 2022

Transboundary Groundwater Resilience Network Hosts First Annual Workshop

Transboundary Groundwater Resilience Network Hosts First Annual Workshop

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator, & Christine Tang, NM WRRI Research Scientist, Assc.

The Transboundary Groundwater Resilience (TGR) Network of Networks (formerly known as TGRR) funded by the National Science Foundation’s Accelerating Research through International Network-to-Network Collaborations (AccelNet) program, was pleased to host its first annual workshop on September 28 and 29. TGR is a collaboration between the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI), West Big Data Innovation Hub, and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). This partnership was created to develop a new, international network of networks to connect water, social, data, and systems science to establish an innovative transboundary groundwater approach. This effort strives to provide leadership, volunteer, and engagement opportunities for all its partners, especially students and early-career researchers.

This interactive event garnered over thirty participants throughout the workshop. On the first day of the workshop, Dr. Sam Fernald, Director of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute and Principal Investigator (PI) on the project, gave opening remarks regarding the current outlook of TGR, including a name change to reflect the progression of the project. TGR aims to evolve from creating connections and content for research networks to engaging with stakeholders and providing actionable guidelines for transboundary groundwater resilience.

After these opening remarks, the workshop began with an introduction to Systems Thinking and Systems Mapping by researchers from the System Dynamics Group at the University of Bergen, Norway. They provided an overview of how to draw systems maps using causal loop diagramming (CLD). CLDs depict, for example, how an increase in variable A causes an increase in variable B, all else equal, then how an increase in variable B causes an increase (or decrease) in variable A, thus reinforcing (or balancing) behavior in systems. Each participant was assigned to an interactive breakout session led by a facilitator who guided a hands-on approach to CLD. In these rooms, attendees were asked to identify critical issues related to groundwater depletion and graphically represent key variables’ (e.g., groundwater level, water demand, etc.) behavior over time using an online whiteboard to collaborate with other session members. These responses were then clustered according to common themes to develop a systems map that enables participants to understand and specify the feedback relationships between concepts. Facilitators frequently engaged participants by inquiring about possible connections that are part of the causal loops.

Figure 1: Example of a systems map using causal loop diagraming produced by a group during the TGR Annual Workshop

The workshop continued on Thursday, where participants were gathered once more into breakout groups to discuss the results of the previous day’s online whiteboard session. Facilitators summarized previously identified loops and emphasized the synergistic or competing loops. Systems mapping can be an intricate activity as seen in Figure 1 above. From this exercise, one can see that this group identified both balancing (indicated by a red arrow with a negative sign inside of it) and reinforcing (indicated by a black arrow with a positive sign) feedback loops. In this group’s map, an increase in Water Demand increases Water usage, which decreases Groundwater, which decreases Total Fresh water, which decreases Freshwater availability, which decreases Industrial Activities, which decreases Water Demand. When going around a single feedback loop to determine loop polarity (+ reinforcing or – balancing), one starts by increasing a variable and only considering the variables in that loop. Think about that loop in isolation. Keep all variables outside of that loop constant. After one finishes going around the loop and finds that the same variable has decreased, then one has identified a balancing feedback loop.

After the systems mapping activity, there was a research agenda-setting activity where participants could contribute their thoughts and ideas concerning significant connections, areas that seemed especially challenging, and variables that could be influential in a system. Once these relationships were established, attendees could “plot” these onto a matrix by importance and uncertainty to prioritize research needs. Once this activity concluded, each breakout group returned to the main room and presented their findings. The systems maps from this workshop will be publicly available for researchers and policymakers to understand this participant group’s mental model of how to achieve transboundary groundwater resilience. In addition to the workshop, NM WRRI and the University of Bergen administered a pre- and post-workshop survey to understand what participants’ transboundary groundwater resilience research priority areas are and whether that is reflected in the systems maps. The University of Bergen plans to analyze the data to produce a journal publication in collaboration with the TGR team.

This interactive workshop is just one of several opportunities to provide input on the challenges and needs for more effective transboundary groundwater research and management. Interested individuals, institutions, and networks can list themselves on the TGR Network of Networks Member Directory by filling out the new TGR Member Suave Survey.  This form collects detailed and personalized data from each survey-taker to grow and evolve the directory to create more possible collaboration opportunities. TGR is actively seeking volunteers to engage and learn about coordinating international, cross-disciplinary research collaboration that will lead to actionable agendas for resilience. Volunteers will learn how to organize, run, and sustain a collaborative setting while learning about each other’s work to develop a shared understanding of the scientific language used by different groups. TGR specifically encourages participation from underrepresented groups in academia, and the team will work with the volunteers to ensure that their position aligns with their career goals. Interested individuals can apply here.

A video recording of opening remarks and presentation links are available on the TGR website.

For more information on becoming involved, please visit the TGR website, or sign up for the mailing list to learn about future TGR events and announcements.

Categories
eNews September 2022

NM WRRI Awards UNM Graduate Student a Student Water Research Grant for his Work Transforming Wastewater Sewage into Recoverable Energy

NM WRRI Awards UNM Graduate Student a Student Water Research Grant for his Work Transforming Wastewater Sewage into Recoverable Energy

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Sr. Student Program Coordinator

Carl L. Abadam, a graduate student at the University of New Mexico’s Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, is working on research transforming wastewater sewage into renewable energy. Abadam believes that wastewater sludges are primed for energy recovery due to their high lipids content and consistent availability. The process Abadam is working on is called hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) and is a wet thermochemical process that exploits the untapped energy content of wastewater sludges and transforms them into valuable products like sustainable biocrude oil. According to Abadam, “it’s an extreme pressure cooker that takes excreta and fuels your car.” He explains that HTL is a transformative technology that could shift our perspective from viewing waste as a problem to seeing waste as a sustainable energy source. The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute has awarded Abadam a Student Water Research Grant for his important research on this topic.

Under the guidance of his faculty advisor Dr. Anjali Mulchandani, Abadam’s study will focus on biocrude yields in relation to the overall wastewater treatment train. According to Abadam, “while anaerobic digestion seems to be the technology of choice for sludge stabilization, the greater efficiency, contaminant removal, and higher product valorization of HTL can potentially change how the solids process train looks like in future wastewater facilities.” Abadam believes that as regulations prioritize the effluent quality of wastewater, higher contaminant concentrations in the solids effluent could make current biosolids management (i.e., landfilling, incineration, and land application) less viable. Therefore, Abadam believes wastewater sludge stabilization technology must keep pace with the technologies in the liquids train to ensure the future sustainability of treated wastewater.

Abadam will present this research at the upcoming 67th Annual New Mexico Water Conference in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and plans to attend the Water Environment Federation Residuals and Biosolids Conference in 2023. Abadam is planning on graduating with a Master of Science in Civil Engineering with a focus on Environmental Engineering in May of 2023. After graduation, Abadam plans to pursue a PhD in environmental engineering and continue his work researching innovative technologies for water and wastewater.

Categories
eNews September 2022

Meet the Researcher, Blair Stringam, Professor, New Mexico State University

Meet the Researcher, Blair Stringam, Professor, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Blair Stringam is a professor for the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department at New Mexico State University (NMSU) and has been an affiliate since 2008. He currently advises undergraduate students and serves on several graduate student committees. Stringam enjoys teaching students how to find fulfillment in their research and inspiring them to discover better ways to manage water resources. He has a long history with the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) and has been awarded funding through the Faculty Water Research Grant Program. Stringam’s funded research topics include furthering the development of a model that describes the influence of the river and canal systems on aquifers and advancing software to operate remote water control sites to provide timely water deliveries. He has published two technical completion reports with NM WRRI (report no. 372 and report no. 393).

Stringam’s areas of expertise center around irrigation, water measurement and management, sensor design/applications, control systems, precision agriculture, and open channel flow modeling. He is currently working on two types of technologies that will help secure water supplies for an extended amount of time. The first project is a user-friendly, inexpensive, and highly-accurate sensor that will allow water users to better monitor soil moisture to maintain that only the required amount of water is used for crops. This sensor is composed of lasers, a micro-processing unit, and a radio transmitter, which allows for easy installation and will be linkable to the user’s cellphone. While this research is still in process, this cellphone connection will enable the sensor to provide updates to the farmer so they can closely monitor crop water use and apply irrigation water as needed.

The second project Stringam is working on is developing a feedback control automation system that will be used to operate irrigation canal systems. This will give canal managers more precision over water deliveries to their users and consistently monitor canal changes to conserve water. This technology will involve using sensors and control computers installed with the required management software. With this system, irrigation districts will be able to promptly provide more precise amounts of water to users. These two projects fully support what Stringam believes to be one of the most challenging issues concerning his research: the extended drought situation in the Southwestern U.S. Stringam believes the increasing demand for water and its continued misuse are areas of significant importance.

Stringam earned his BS in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. His MS and PhD degrees were earned in Agricultural and Irrigation Engineering, and Biological and Agricultural Engineering, respectively, from Utah State University in Logan. He has 28 Extension and referred publications, has contributed to 12 proceedings, and holds two patents for a Continuous Flow Measurement Recorder and Recording Method, and an Automated Farm Turnout System. “I have always enjoyed conducting research. . . Throughout my education, I enjoyed classes where I was able to use the scientific method to discover and develop a deeper understanding of water management and control issues,” Stringam states.

Stringam’s long-term research goal is to continue discovering and enhancing practical methods and technologies that provide water users with straightforward water conservation strategies. He plans to pursue water conservation research that will benefit the State of New Mexico by ensuring that water-scarce communities have access to a consistent water supply, and looks forward to any future research collaborations with NM WRRI.

Categories
August 2022 eNews

Secure Water Future Project Explores Western Water Issues in California with Expedition Including NMSU Graduate Students

Secure Water Future Project Explores Western Water Issues in California with Expedition Including NMSU Graduate Students

by Liam Sabiston, NM WRRI Graduate Research Assistant

The USDA-funded Secure Water Future project aims to understand, enable, and envision water management strategies through data-enabled decision-making. The project has partnered with NMSU, Utah State University, and several campuses within the University of California system, including Merced, Davis, and Berkeley. The Secure Water Future project recently held a Climate Adaptation Science Academy Experiential Learning Expedition (CASA ELE) from August 1 to August 7. CASA ELE invited graduate students from NMSU, Utah State University, UC Merced, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley to Merced, California, to experience the processes that drive decision-making on water issues in the semi-arid western US. The expedition sought to inform graduate students on topics in groundwater management, environmental water management, hydroclimatic conditions, and reconciling agriculture and ecosystems.

The group departed from UC Merced, driving east to Yosemite National Park and making stops at Olmsted Point and Mono Lake, where Dr. Sarah Null gave a lecture on the history of the lake and the legislation put in place to protect it. The group stopped in Yosemite National Park to meet with park hydrologist Rachel Hallnan, who spoke with the group and reviewed some of the daily park operations. The learning expedition continued to O’Shaughnessy Dam, where Chris Graham presented how the reservoir supplies water to the city of San Francisco and the daily operations at the site. The next several days involved rafting down the Tuolumne River, where the group gained firsthand experience of the Tuolumne River watershed. The group mentors provided daily lectures on a wide range of topics, including water policy and economics, climate change and adaptation, watershed ecology, hydrology, and earth surface processes. The group then made its way to Dos Rios, a newly proposed state park where a floodplain restoration project is being implemented to return land previously used for agriculture to its natural state. The learning expedition concluded with a final stop at Randy Fiorini’s farm, a local farmer in the Turlock Irrigation District. This last stop allowed the group to see local agricultural practices and better understand how policy, such as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, affects stakeholders. Moving forward, Secure Water Future plans to host another expedition next summer in Utah to explore processes that drive decision-making on water issues in another semi-arid climate. An expedition will be hosted in New Mexico the following year.

When asked about their experience at CASA ELE, the NMSU students said the following:

“It was exciting and fun to learn through the mentor sessions’ hydrological processes, earth surface processes, aquatic ecology, climate science, and water policy and economics for the understanding of river systems and fluvial processes, in this particular experience, the Tuolumne River in California.” – Sabrina Galvan Ontiveros

“The time I spent conversing with other people during mentor sessions, sitting on the beach, or during lunch breaks were extremely helpful in obtaining effective insights and other’s perspectives to improving research methods pertaining to water management and agriculture.” – Tasnim Kamal Shamma

“It was a remarkable experience for me to see how California is adapting to a changing climate and noting the similarities and differences when compared to the approach New Mexico is taking on the topic.” – Liam Sabiston

“It was an amazing experience to travel to the mountains and raft down the Tuolumne River to follow water and see how it’s stored and used for agriculture in San Joaquin Valley and learn from their management practices how California is working to be a resilient valley.” – Jorge Preciado

Categories
August 2022 eNews

NMSU PhD Candidate Awarded Student Water Research Grant for Work Characterizing Key Components of the Rio Grande Compact and Rio Grande Project

NMSU PhD Candidate Awarded Student Water Research Grant for Work Characterizing Key Components of the Rio Grande Compact and Rio Grande Project

by Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Sr. Student Program Coordinator

The current water debate between New Mexico and Texas is complex. A PhD candidate at New Mexico State University, Claudia Trueblood, is researching three important topics related to this issue: (1) water supply of the Rio Grande Project (RGP), (2) Diversion Ratio provision, and (3) D2 allocation curve. NM WRRI has awarded Trueblood a Student Water Research Grant (SWRG) to assist with publishing this research in three separate peer-reviewed journal articles. The SWRG project is titled Statistical Characterization of Central Components of the Rio Grande Compact and Rio Grande Project.

The RGP is a federal Bureau of Reclamation irrigation project authorized by Congress in 1905 and largely completed in 1916. The RGP provides irrigation water to 90,640 acres in Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID) in New Mexico, 69,010 acres in El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 (EPCWID) in Texas, and up to 60,000 acre-feet of water per year to the country of Mexico. Elephant Butte Reservoir is the primary storage facility for the RGP. Caballo Reservoir was added in the late 1930s along with hydroelectric generation capacity at Elephant Butte Dam. Four primary RGP diversion points are in New Mexico, one is in Texas, and one diverts water to Mexico. Trueblood’s research aims to characterize the Rio Grande Compact’s annual credits and debits with water supply level and examine relationships among prior years’ annual credits and debits for the period 1940 to 2020.

The Diversion Ratio is the sum of annual RGP diversion charges to EBID, EPCWID, and Mexico to the annual release from Caballo Dam. It is used in the RGP allocation procedure as codified in the 2008 Operating Agreement among EBID, EPCWID, and the United States to adjust EBID’s annual allocation for losses in New Mexico due to groundwater capture. Trueblood’s second research objective is to develop a statistical model for forecasting the Rio Grande Project Diversion Ratio for an upcoming year based on pre-release groundwater levels, the current year’s estimated annual release from Caballo Reservoir, and the prior year’s release from Caballo Reservoir.

The third objective of Trueblood’s research attempts to reformulate the D2 equation, which is a linear regression that estimates total annual RGP diversions to EBID, EPCWID, and Mexico based on release and diversion data collected by Reclamation during the period 1951-1978, when the RGP was affected by persistent droughts. D2 serves as the basis for annual diversion allocations for EBID and EPCWID in the 2008 Operating Agreement.

Under the guidance of her faculty advisor, Dr. Phil King, and faculty sponsor Dr. Soyoung Jeon, Trueblood expects the results of her research to uncover potential autocorrelations between water available and water delivered by Colorado and New Mexico, to develop a method of estimating the seasonal Diversion Ratio during the irrigation season rather than only at the end of the season, and to improve on the estimation of the D2 allocation curve by including prior year release. This research has significant implications for allocating water and meeting delivery obligations downstream in Texas and Mexico.

Trueblood will present this research at the 67th Annual New Mexico Water Conference and is currently finishing the first manuscript of this project with her research committee. Trueblood, originally from Colombia, plans on graduating with her PhD in Water Science and Management next semester. After graduation, Trueblood plans to work in a job that directly relates to water management.

Categories
August 2022 eNews

Meet the Researcher, Zachary Mitchell, Assistant Professor, Eastern New Mexico University

Meet the Researcher, Zachary Mitchell, Assistant Professor, Eastern New Mexico University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Zachary Mitchell is an assistant professor at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico. He teaches ecology and aquatic science courses throughout the school year, including Fisheries Management and Conservation, Limnology, Aquatic Ecology, and Wildlife Biology. Mitchell currently mentors three graduate students and several undergraduate students who are either assisting on Mitchell’s current projects or working on their own research tasks. According to Mitchell, “The most important role of my position is to teach students the necessary knowledge and skills that will make them successful after college in the biological/natural resources field.” Mitchell’s undergraduate student, Justin Schleusner, was recently awarded a New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) Student Water Research Grant for his project titled, Effects of turbidity on fish behavior and community structure in New Mexico Rivers. This project was featured in the July edition of eNews.

Mitchell’s expertise centers around fisheries and aquatic science field sampling techniques. “My research generally focuses on testing ecological theory to better understand the patterns and processes of species distribution and community structure in freshwater ecosystems to better inform conservation and management actions . . .  I am particularly interested in the impacts of natural and anthropogenic disturbance events on stream community form and function,” Mitchell states. In addition to this research, he is currently working on a few projects related to the thermal ecology of riverine organisms. To further these efforts, his lab received funding to develop a long-term monitoring program on the Pecos River to better understand the driving factors of community structure.

Mitchell earned his BS (2014) with honors in Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science from the College of Forestry at Mississippi State University in Starkville. The Department of Biological Sciences awarded his MS (2016) in Biological Sciences at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. Focusing on Aquatic Resources and Integrative Biology, Mitchell pursued his PhD from the Department of Biology at Texas State University in San Marcos and graduated in 2020. He has five published peer-reviewed manuscripts with several others in preparation. When asked about his motivation to become a researcher, he mentioned that he has been an avid outdoorsman for most of his life and enjoyed learning about the science, management, and conservation of ecosystems during his early undergraduate years.

When asked what one of the most significant issues within his research field is, Mitchell mentions that the “negative impacts associated with climate change and growing human populations are a concern to rivers. In the southwestern US, increasing drought frequency and magnitude is troubling… Water is life, and we need to learn how to use it sustainably.” This concern has led him to seek a better understanding of how decreasing water availability will impact aquatic communities across multiple spatial and temporal scales. In the future, Mitchell hopes to collaborate with NM WRRI on manipulative experiments examining drought and flood impacts on riverine community structures. He anticipates that such projects of this caliber would help clarify groundwater availability and how these sources influence river communities.

Categories
eNews July 2022

Transboundary Basin Challenges Presented at The American Geophysical Union Frontiers in Hydrology: Future of Water Conference

Transboundary Basin Challenges Presented at The American Geophysical Union Frontiers in Hydrology: Future of Water Conference

By Ana Cristina García-Vásquez, NM WRRI Graduate Research Assistant

Ana Cristina García-Vásquez is a PhD student at New Mexico State University (NMSU), and works at the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) as a Graduate Research Assistant. Since 2015, she has been working on the identification of different groundwater recharge sources on the Mexican side of the Mesilla/Conejos Médanos transboundary aquifer system. This recharge estimation is necessary to know the origin, quantity, and quality of the available resources, with the main objective of creating better management of transboundary aquifers. García-Vásquez works alongside Dr. Zohrab Samani (NMSU), Dr. Alexander (Sam) Fernald (NMSU), Dr. Alfredo Granados (UACJ), and Andrew Robertson (USGS), who are also members of the doctoral committee for the Water Science and Management Program.

In collaboration with her colleagues, García-Vásquez worked on an isotopic analysis to identify the recharge origin in the Conejos Médanos (CM) aquifer, which provides data on the CM area. Through this research, she discovered no traces of tritium content, which indicated that the water in the CM aquifer is from the Quaternary Age and, therefore, cannot be renewed since a recharge source is not present. To elaborate on this effort, García-Vásquez and her team have recently published an article titled, Investigation of the origin of Hueco bolson and Mesilla basin Aquifers (US and Mexico) with isotopic data analysis, published by the open-access journal, Water.

García-Vásquez presented a part of this investigation at The American Geophysical Union Frontiers in Hydrology: Future of Water Conference, held on June 19-24, 2022, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in a session titled, Transboundary Groundwater Resilience through Collaborative Models, Data, Systems, and Discussion. Her presentation on the Assessment of Recharge Potential in the Mesilla/Conejos Médanos Transboundary Aquifer between the US and Mexico, introduced the estimation of the replenishment recharge from the same aquifer system based on its drawdown data. These data were provided by the Municipal Board of Water and Sanitation of Ciudad Juárez (JMAS). In conclusion, the data analyzed provides an estimated groundwater recharge amounts to 1.34 million m3 per year, therefore, the extraction rate in Mexico exceeds the recharge in Mexico.

As a follow-up to the session, a round table discussion titled, Transboundary groundwater issues, challenges, and approaches to sustainable development and management at Frontiers in Hydrology Meeting 2022, was organized by Dr. Fernald in collaboration with Anne Marie Matherne (USGS) and several other participants. In this round table, attendees discussed legal frameworks of groundwater, the limitations of exchanging data, and collaborations between different countries. They also talked about the fear/uncertainty of sharing data due to legal challenges, and the accessibility of sharing data between Canada and Mexico. Problems and solutions regarding these U.S. international borders were discussed in addition to how binational information could be stored.

The different perspectives of the participants established a binational dialogue so as not to abuse a shared system. To conclude, they talked about the necessity to produce organized research science to conduct and support the decisions/agreements in these countries. Research is the key to present the current state of the aquifer and address the challenges of the current crisis. Participants agreed they are on the right track to share the information, have discussions, and think about future agreements.

Categories
eNews July 2022

Meet the Researcher, Pei Xu, Professor and Research Director, New Mexico State University

Meet the Researcher, Pei Xu, Professor and Research Director, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Pei Xu is a professor for the Department of Civil Engineering at New Mexico State University (NMSU), and the research director of the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium. She has been with NMSU since 2013, and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses related to wastewater treatment, environmental engineering/technologies, and food-energy-water sustainability. At the onset of employment with NMSU, Xu has worked closely with the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI), and she has served as an advisor to several of NM WRRI’s Student Water Research Grant recipients. She regularly works with NM WRRI researchers on various water projects, such as the New Mexico Universities Produced Water Synthesis Project (NMUPWSP). Led by NM WRRI, the NMUPWSP is funded through state appropriations for a statewide water assessment with the objective of stimulating discussion concerning the legal and regulatory aspects of produced water reuse and the impacts of the newly enacted Produced Water Act. Collaboration between multiple universities across the state brings together water research experts to provide an independent understanding of the broad implications of produced water management decisions. In this collaborative effort with NM WRRI, Xu is researching ways to improve water sustainability and resilience in New Mexico via alternative water supplies (e.g., brackish water and produced water).

Xu has many areas of expertise, including 1) produced water quality, treatment, and reuse; 2) membrane processing and fouling; 3) advanced oxidation and disinfection; 4) food-energy-water-environment systems; 5) potable/non-potable water reuse; 6) desalination; 7) biological and bioelectrochemical processes; 8) removal of emerging contaminants; 9) decision support tools; 10) resources recovery from wastewater, and 11) photocatalysis. Xu’s research addresses critical water challenges in arid and semi-arid regions using non-traditional water supplies such as brackish water, produced water, desalination concentrate, and industrial and municipal wastewater.

Xu leads multiple million dollars’ worth of research efforts (federal, state, and industry funding), including the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium and the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI). The Produced Water Act was signed into law during the 2019 New Mexico Legislative Session, and tasked the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) with regulating the disposition of produced water, including discharge, handling, transport, storage, recycling, or treatment. In September 2019, NMED entered into an agreement with NMSU to establish the NMSU-led NMPWRC to help fill in the scientific and technical gaps related to produced water reuse. Xu proudly mentions that the NMPWRC has developed an extensive network of over 75 public-private partnerships with many agencies, professionals, community groups, policymakers, and international entities. Currently, the NMPWRC is working on various technical issues associated with produced water treatment/reuse and expanding its public education and outreach program.

NMSU is a founding member of NAWI alongside Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Xu is the lead cartographer of NAWI on brackish water desalination and a project lead on membrane scaling control using electromagnetic fields. She works alongside researchers from national labs, academia, and industry to develop roadmaps, and identify knowledge gaps and opportunities for developing alternative water supplies. This extensive research will span over five years to create an affordable, energy-efficient, resilient water supply through decentralized, small-scale, fit-for-purpose desalination.

Xu earned her BS, MS, and PhD in Environmental Engineering from Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology, China; Lanzhou Jiaotong University, China; and the National Institute of Water, Forest and Agricultural Engineering in Paris, France, respectively. She opted to become a researcher because she is interested in fundamental sciences and applied engineering technologies. “Being a researcher allows me to work in both areas and develop innovative and creative concepts for engineering applications,” Xu states. She envisions her future work centering around building infrastructure for arid/semiarid regions to address water scarcity challenges, fostering sustainable and healthy communities, and supporting economic development through her research efforts.

Categories
eNews June 2022

NM WRRI Hosts Hybrid 2022 Animas and San Juan Watersheds Conference

NM WRRI Hosts Hybrid 2022 Animas and San Juan Watersheds Conference

By Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Specialist

Nearly seven years following the August 2015 Gold King Mine waste water spill, and after a gap due to Covid-19, the Animas and San Juan Watersheds Conference returned to Farmington, New Mexico, with a slate of associated events along with the main conference plenary sessions taking place on June 7-11, 2022. Building on the experience gained from virtual events over the past two years, NM WRRI also offered a free, simultaneous Zoom option for attendees, making this the first hybrid conference hosted by NM WRRI. Nearly 200 in-person and virtual attendees learned about a broad array of watershed health topics affecting the Animas and San Juan Watersheds, including restoration and remediation efforts related to the 2015 Gold King Mine spill.

Day One presentations included updates on efforts from the Bonita Peak Mining District Community Advisory Group, and Trout Unlimited’s Ty Churchwell on efforts to get a Good Samaritan law for the remediation of hardrock mines passed at the federal level. Presentations also encompassed a wider range of regional watershed issues, such as the San Juan Watershed Group’s presentation on their microbial source tracking study in the San Juan River, the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) overview of funding opportunities available through their River Stewardship Program, current efforts of the San Juan Water Commission, the history and development of the Lee Acres Water Users Association, and research from the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center at Farmington (NMSU ASC Farmington) concerning corn and potato yields, among other compelling presentations. This first conference day concluded with a poster session reception featuring five posters. All permissible presentation slides, posters, and videos will be available at the conference website.

Day Two began with a morning of presentations by the U.S. Geological Survey and Navajo Nation EPA concerning various hydro-geochemistry studies taking place in the watershed. The final afternoon of the conference featured talks by New Mexico State Climatologist Dave DuBois on the climate outlook of the San Juan Basin, Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist Susan Behery on the operations of Navajo Dam and Reservoir, before concluding with an overview of the WIIN Act projects given jointly by the NMED and Utah Department of Environmental Quality, and finally a summary of a Gold King Mine spill restoration plan shared by the NM Office of the Natural Resources Trustee. Also making a surprise appearance on Thursday, June 9, was U.S. Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández, who delivered remarks to the conference audience.

This year’s conference was fortunate enough to feature a number of pre- and post-conference events. Before the June 8 conference commencement, NM WRRI helped coordinate a pre-conference event held in the Navajo Nation. The “Shiprock Sustainability Fair,” organized by partners from NM WRRI, the NMSU ASC Farmington, and The University of Arizona, featured several demonstration areas ringed around the outside of the Shiprock Chapter House. Co-organizer Dr. Karletta Chief presented one of her off-grid solar-powered water treatment units, while fellow event organizers Dr. Kevin Lombard and Brandon Francis of the NMSU ASC Farmington demonstrated onsite XRF soil testing of community soil samples and showcased a greenhouse with a raised-bed garden that was installed at the Dream Diné Charter School next door to the chapter house. More than 100 local community members were served lunch provided by local Navajo venues before a number of door prizes were given out following the luncheon.

On June 10, the day after conference presentations, attendees had the opportunity to participate in a day of tours that included a morning tour of the NMSU ACS Farmington lead by superintendent Dr. Kevin Lombard, and featured an overview and several stops around Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI) facilities lead by NAPI Director of Sales and Marketing, Vincent Cowboy. After returning from this field trip, attendees were welcomed at Growing Forward Farm in Aztec, NM. The 12-acre farm is managed by the NMSU San Juan County Cooperative Extension Office, and since its inception in 2020, serves as a community agricultural education resource.

On the morning of June 11, attendees were treated to one final field trip, a rafting float trip through the confluence of the Animas and San Juan Rivers led by Desert River Guides of Farmington, New Mexico, that also included a site visit to view a portion of the Animas/Berg Park Fire Mitigation Project. This multi-year effort has removed portions of invasive Russian Olive and Salt Cedar, and seeks to regrow native trees in the parks. While floating down the lower Animas and into the San Juan River, trip operator Cody Dudgen shared the future plans of local river recreation advocates such as Desert River Guides. These plans include expanding the presence of outdoor recreation options in that portion of the watershed through river hazard removal, the installation of new man-made rapids, and a new boat landing in the Westland Park area of Farmington.

NM WRRI thanks the planning committee members, presenters, and all the attendees who helped make this year’s conference a success, and looks forward to welcoming participants again at next year’s Animas and San Juan Watersheds Conference.

Categories
eNews January 2021

Acequias & Science: Highlights from a Collaborative Workshop Connecting Acequia Communities with Research

Acequias & Science: Highlights from a Collaborative Workshop Connecting Acequia Communities with Research

By Lily Conrad, NM WRRI Graduate Research Assistant

In an era of changing climate, socio-economic dynamics, and water rights allocations challenging the resilience of acequia networks throughout New Mexico, there is a need to address gaps in scientific and community knowledge to prepare these irrigation networks for the future. To do this, researchers and communities must establish a foundation of transparent, mutually respectful communication and collaboration. On the evening of January 14th, New Mexico State University (NMSU) and the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) hosted a collaborative workshop connecting traditional irrigation communities with acequia research. The workshop presented highlights from a newly released book by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University entitled, Acequias of the Southwestern United States: Elements of Resilience in a Coupled Natural and Human System. The workshop also included question and answer sessions, and a discussion about how to direct future research to better address community needs.

The workshop attendance of over 100 participants reflects community interest and the justification for more workshops of this nature. The evening highlighted three blocks of research found in the newly published acequia book. First, Dr. Sylvia Rodriguez and Dr. José Rivera highlighted critical social and historical elements of acequias. The speakers and discussion emphasized the need for acequia research to be mostly interdisciplinary to encapsulate community relationships to the land and culture that promotes resilience. The second block of research presentations highlighted hydrologic and natural science-related findings from Dr. Carlos Ochoa and Dr. Andrés Cibils. These presentations spurred follow-up conversations surrounding on-the-ground implications and how these findings might inform changes in ditch or land management. The final portion of the presentations featured Dr. Vincent Tidwell and Dr. Sam Fernald tying together the previous topics with themes of connection, integration, and resilience. In the conversation that followed, researchers opened the floor for community members to voice their questions, concerns, and needs for the future resilience of acequias. As the workshop conversation concluded, facilitators and attendees were already looking forward to the next discussion to continue addressing more topics. In true NMAA fashion, the meeting ended with singing, celebration, and appreciation of acequias.

Please click here to register to view the Zoom recording, and here to view the Facebook livestream.

Acequias & Science workshop organizers and presenters. First row from left to right: Emily Arasim (NMAA Acequia Program, Assistant & Youth Education Coordinator), Sam Fernald (NM WRRI, Director & NMSU, Professor), and Adrienne Rosenberg (NMSU Sustainable Agriculture Science Center in Alcalde, Editor). Second row from left to right: José Rivera (UNM, Professor Emeritus), Serafina Lombardi (NMAA, Director of Education and Outreach), and Andrés Cibils (NMSU, Professor). Third row from left to right: Vincent Tidwell (Sandia National Laboratories, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff), Steve Guldan (NMSU Sustainable Agriculture Science Center in Alcalde, Superintendent), and Carlos Ochoa (OSU, Associate Professor). Fourth row from left to right: Lily Conrad (NMSU, Graduate Research Assistant), Sylvia Rodriguez (UNM, Professor Emeritus), and Paula Garcia (NMAA, Executive Director).