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eNews January 2023

NM WRRI, NMED Co-host Early Input Workshop for the New Mexico Nonpoint Source Management Plan

NM WRRI, NMED Co-host Early Input Workshop for the New Mexico Nonpoint Source Management Plan

By Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Specialist

The majority of surface water quality problems identified in New Mexico are caused by nonpoint source (NPS) water pollution[1]. As the runoff from rainfall and snowmelt moves over and through the ground, it picks up natural and human-caused pollutants and deposits them into rivers, lakes, wetlands, and groundwater. Section 319 of the federal Clean Water Act requires states to assess NPS pollution and develop management programs to control the sources identified.

The NPS Management Program helps New Mexico meet its surface water quality standards to protect designated uses and groundwater quality for municipal, domestic, and agricultural uses. To this end, according to the most recent NPS Management Plan from 2019, “the NPS Management Program emphasizes watershed-based planning as a means of coordinating watershed restoration efforts, fostering watershed associations, and encouraging partnership among agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the public.”

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI), in cooperation with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), hosted a virtual interactive workshop on January 18 to discuss and provide input to update the New Mexico NPS Management Program. Ninety participants from numerous agencies and organizations attended the workshop to provide input that will inform the revision of New Mexico’s program for managing NPS pollution, which is being undertaken by NMED’s Surface Water Quality Bureau. Throughout the day-long virtual workshop, attendees discussed the current NPS Management Plan, heard presentations on new NPS management initiatives, and participated in a series of breakout group discussions and interactive polling exercises.

Leading the facilitation of the workshop were NM WRRI contractor and natural resources consultant Nikki Dictson and NMED Watershed Protection Section manager Abe Franklin. Additional breakout facilitation and virtual whiteboard notetaking were provided by staff from NMED, NM WRRI, and volunteers from other agencies with NPS management activities. By engaging in the breakout and polling exercises, workshop participants helped to identify and rank existing and potential new activities NMED could build upon and implement into the next NPS management plan.

The input from the workshop will be compiled into a report and provided to workshop participants for comment.


[1] New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission. 2018. 2018-2020 State of New Mexico Clean Water Act §303(d)/§305(b) Integrated Report.

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eNews January 2023

Meet the Researcher, Huidae Cho, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University

Huidae Cho, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Huidae Cho is an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at New Mexico State University (NMSU). He specializes in the application of GIS to water resources engineering, hydrologic modeling, and software development. He will teach Open Channel Hydraulics in the spring of 2023.

Dr. Cho currently mentors a PhD candidate in the College of Engineering (Civil Engineering Department) and a master’s student from the Water Science and Management Graduate Degree Program (WSM) at NMSU. The WSM program (Chaired by Dr. Sam Fernald, Director of NM WRRI) provides support and education to students investigating water resources within and beyond New Mexico.

Dr. Cho recently collaborated with NM WRRI on a National Science Foundation proposal last year that, if funded, will allow him to work on a Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to develop surface and groundwater indices to achieve the broader water management goals of the project. Dr. Cho has expressed an interest in further working with NM WRRI on hydrologic modeling, optimization, and uncertainty analysis by incorporating remote sensing data, digital image processing, and meta-heuristic algorithms. He hopes his computing and software development skills will assist the Institute and many other collaborators in additional partnership opportunities.

One of Dr. Cho’s essential objectives in his research is incorporating modern computational power and big data into water resources research to take advantage of advances in remote and onsite sensing and network technologies. “We are now living in an era of big data, but managing and making sense of such data has been challenging in non-computer-science fields,” Dr. Cho explains. He has made it his goal to converge information generated onsite with data being studied in the lab. To strengthen his pre-existing computational hydrology research, Dr. Cho is currently working on creating a fast flow accumulation algorithm for large watersheds using parallel computing. He mentions that this area of research is essential because the spatiotemporal resolution of terrain data vastly increases as high-resolution aerial and satellite sensor data are added, thus needing an effective method that can be used to collect and analyze it.

When breaking down some of the most significant issues within his expertise, Dr. Cho emphasizes that problem-solving with other researchers is critical to obtaining comprehensive and complete data. “I believe that water resources research is highly interdisciplinary because it can easily cross borders among civil engineering, hydrologic science, geospatial science, computer science, etc. However, to the best of my knowledge, not many researchers can truly understand and take advantage of different approaches and data available in these multiple fields to conduct efficient and effective water resources research. This issue becomes aggravated and more obvious when we have to study large watersheds with limited resources. In the end, bigger problems often need a different approach,” Dr. Cho states.

In terms of addressing water resources challenges, Dr. Cho insists it is vital for researchers to develop new approaches for continuous monitoring and modeling of dynamic watersheds. This will be critical in evaluating water infrastructure and adapting to changing climate and constant human development. Regarding natural and anthropogenic effects, Dr. Cho believes researchers will need to document more extreme hydrologic events such as floods or droughts. It will be important to ask how we can integrate yesterday’s models and tomorrow’s data to better assess uncertainty in this process.

Dr. Cho earned his BS and MS from Kyungpook National University in Daegu, South Korea, and his PhD from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. His degrees were in civil engineering, emphasizing GIS and numerical modeling. When asked about his motivation for becoming a researcher, Dr. Cho states, “I wanted to pursue new knowledge for solving challenging problems rather than repeating the same analysis to solve familiar problems in the consulting industry without advancing my knowledge and skill sets.” Dr. Cho’s future water research endeavors include applying distributed computing to modeling processes, machine learning to hydrologic forecasting, and developing computational techniques to improve water infrastructure databases.

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December 2022 eNews

UNM Graduate Student Awarded NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant for his Work Studying the Reuse of Municipal Wastewater in New Mexico

UNM Graduate Student Awarded NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant for his Work Studying the Reuse of Municipal Wastewater in New Mexico

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Program Manager

There are places in New Mexico where water scarcity is becoming an increasing concern. In some areas, due to the increased human population, demand for potable water, and specific land use trends, there are new threats to freshwater availability, delicate ecosystems, and agricultural production. One possible solution for water scarcity issues could be using treated wastewater for different agricultural and urban needs. NM WRRI has awarded a Student Water Research Grant to Tosin Olofinsao, a graduate student at The University of New Mexico, who is studying this topic.

The project Olofinsao is working on is titled, Reuse of Municipal Wastewater for Irrigation in Drylands: A Case of the Middle Rio Grande Basin (MRGB). Under the guidance of Olofinsao’s faculty advisor, Dr. Jingjing Wang, the project aims to develop a regional-level optimization model to maximize the net social benefits of using treated municipal wastewater across agricultural and urban sectors. According to Olofinsao, treated wastewater contains nutrients essential for crop growth that can be administered via fertigation. The objectives of the project are 1) to determine the optimal allocation of treated municipal wastewater for agricultural irrigation and urban irrigation in the MRGB; 2) to estimate the economic benefits of reusing treated wastewater for agricultural production, for producing different qualities of effluents, and for sales of effluents for agricultural and urban irrigation; and 3) provide policy recommendations for the reuse of treated wastewater.

According to Olofinsao, “by developing this regional optimization model and analysis, we will be able to evaluate the economic viability of the reuse of treated wastewater in the middle Rio Grande Basin. Also, we would be able to establish if treated wastewater is a reliable source of alternative irrigation in the basin. This research will underscore the cost-minimizing strategy for producing effluents and ascertain the markets for treated wastewater in the basin.” Olofinsao presented this research at the 67th Annual New Mexico Water Conference.

Originally from Nigeria, Olofinsao plans to graduate with a PhD in May of 2024 from The University of New Mexico Department of Economics. After graduation, Olofinsao plans to work for the government or a research institute on matters relating to the environment, natural resources, and economics.

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December 2022 eNews

Meet the Researcher, Jay Lillywhite, Assistant Dean, Professor & Co-director, New Mexico State University

Meet the Researcher, Jay Lillywhite, Assistant Dean, Professor & Co-director, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Dr. Jay Lillywhite is a professor for the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, and co-director for the Center of Excellence in Sustainable Food and Agricultural Systems at New Mexico State University (NMSU). He recently accepted an Assistant Dean position for the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Lillywhite’s research focuses primarily on consumer preferences, demand and business feasibility, and economics. Within these fields, Dr. Lillywhite states that keeping agriculture profitable, increasing agricultural productivity while maintaining natural resources, and making economically wise decisions regarding how food and fiber are produced are items of concern. To address these issues, he works closely with stakeholders to find solutions. Lillywhite considers it a great opportunity to work with them directly to identify real-world problems facing agriculture. Through this partnership, he is able to provide stakeholders with pertinent information to assist them in making more informed decisions.

Dr. Lillywhite has collaborated with NM WRRI researchers in the past and is currently a Co-PI on the project, Expanding Organic Systems To Reduce Water Demand And Increase Agricultural Resilience In The Southwest. In this project, Dr. Lillywhite is working with Sam Fernald, Connie Maxwell, and other team members to discover ways to use organic systems to increase agricultural resiliency while reducing water demand. Dr. Lillywhite states his contribution to the team “is to help identify potential crops that can be organically grown, that are efficient water users, and that have significant market potential. To this point in time, we have focused on medicinal herbs. We recently conducted a national survey to understand better consumer use and preferences for these herbs and their willingness to pay for herbs grown in the southwest.”

Dr. Lillywhite earned his BS and MS in Economics from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and Utah State University in Logan, respectively. He received his PhD in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Dr. Lillywhite advises eight graduate students in master’s programs, including Master of Science in Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business programs. He is assisting his students in subjects such as understanding consumer views regarding conservation agriculture and the feasibility of on-farm cold storage. Although he has taught courses during the Fall 2022 semester, in his new role as Assistant Dean, he will be undertaking other responsibilities that do not involve a set teaching schedule. According to Dr. Lillywhite, he will be “focusing on economic and rural development opportunities for New Mexico. In the arid southwest, water and economic development are interwoven.”

Although he has not directly conducted water resources research firsthand since he first arrived at NMSU, he has secondarily dealt with many water-related issues through student projects and outside research studies. Currently, he is working on exploring the economics of controlled-environment agriculture in a container farm. While this type of growth has its own associated challenges, plants within these farms require less water than conventional growing methods.  Dr. Lillywhite states that his research “feels like a way to solve problems that are part of a large puzzle. How do we most efficiently feed and clothe the world’s population while preserving (and maybe enhancing) our natural resources? My contributions are minimal, but hopefully, when combined with others, will help us solve the puzzle.”

Depending on the urgency of stakeholder requests, Dr. Lillywhite plans to continue his work on conservation agriculture and learn new ways to produce nutritious food to meet consumer demand while being cognizant of the limited resources available. Dr. Lilywhite believes the availability of water and the efficient use of water will continue to grow in significance for the arid southwest and much of the world. “Research that helps identify how we can better use and manage our water resources will likewise continue to grow in significance. Certainly, agriculture is facing challenging times ahead, but they are also exciting times for researchers as our contributions, or potential contributions, will be more important than ever.”

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eNews November 2022

UNM Graduate Student Funded for Research Project to Study Water Quality Within the Valles Caldera

UNM Graduate Student Funded for Research Project to Study Water Quality Within the Valles Caldera

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Program Manager

The Valles Caldera is a resurgent caldera that lies within the Jemez Volcanic Field in north-central New Mexico. Snowmelt within the Valles Caldera provides headwaters for the Jemez River, one of the inputs into the Middle Rio Grande Basin near Bernalillo, New Mexico. Previous research has examined the effects of springs outside the caldera on Jemez River water quality. Daniel Lavery, a graduate student at The University of New Mexico, has been awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to expand on this work and investigate the effects of the caldera’s acid-sulfate geothermal springs on surface water quality.

Under the guidance of his faculty advisor, Dr. Laura Crossey, Lavery’s project focuses on the effects of geothermal springs on surface water quality and the natural attenuation of geothermal sulfur and metals. Sulphur Creek is a geothermally-affected stream within the resurgent dome of the Valles Caldera and receives low-pH, high-in-metals geothermal inputs from discrete (Sulphur Springs) and diffuse (Alamo Canyon) sources. According to Lavery, preliminary data indicate a spike in in-stream concentrations of sulfate, aluminum, and iron. Still, these concentrations are effectively attenuated downstream when Sulphur Creek waters mix with freshwaters in Redondo Creek and Rio San Antonio.

The project, aptly named Fate of Sulfur in Sulphur Creek, Valles Caldera, NM: Implications for metal transport and water quality in geothermal systems, aims to determine the effect of the Valles acid-sulfate geothermal system on surface water quality within the caldera and the attenuative processes for dissolved geothermal components in these surface waters. This requires collecting field samples along Sulphur Creek at confluences and known sites of geothermal inputs.

According to Lavery, this research has implications for the use of the Jemez River as a water source in the future. “This research is expected to result in a better understanding of the attenuative processes of metals and sulfur in geothermally-affected surface waters. The Jemez River has stakeholders, including Indigenous communities, along its length and is a significant riverine input to the Middle Rio Grande Basin near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Any change in the attenuative capacity of the Jemez River watershed may have significant implications for its continued use as a water resource.” Lavery presented his research at the 67th Annual New Mexico Water Conference in Las Cruces and plans to present at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in Chicago.

Lavery, originally from Sugar Land, Texas, is working on his Master of Science degree, majoring in Earth and Planetary Science. After graduation, Lavery would like to remain in New Mexico, working for either the U.S. Geological Survey or a local environmental consulting firm.

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eNews November 2022

Meet the Researcher, Ivette Guzmán, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University

Meet the Researcher, Ivette Guzmán, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Ivette Guzmán is an Associate Professor of Horticulture for the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department at New Mexico State University (NMSU). Since joining NMSU in 2016, she has taught four courses, including Introductory Plant Science and Medicinal Herbs. Guzmán also advises undergraduate and graduate horticulture students and mentors them in their coursework and research projects. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Guzmán is currently the co-director of the National Institutes of Health Maximizing Access to Research Careers program at NMSU. This program encourages and supports undergraduates from underrepresented populations to participate in research and pursue research-related careers.

Guzmán is currently collaborating with the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) as a Co-PI on a USDA Organic Transitions grant titled, Expanding Organic Systems to Reduce Water Demand and Increase Agricultural Resilience in the Southwest project. This research project aims to identify agricultural and water resilience pathways for arid and semi-arid small farms and synthesize those understandings into an organic system planning toolkit. Guzmán will work with the grant team to reach farmers in southern New Mexico to find high-value crops for the region. Regarding future collaboration with the Institute, Guzmán hopes to continue her research with NM WRRI’s water scientists in studying regional and statewide water issues.

Guzmán’s previous research involved studying onions in New Mexico and their response to environmental stressors, such as drought or high-saline water sources. During this project, the goals of her experiment involved 1) understanding the impacts of stressors as mentioned above on the onion’s photosynthetic process, and 2) finding onion varieties that better manage such stressors. According to Guzmán, the most significant issues in her field of work include finding vegetable crops that can be grown in environments with high stress related to water quality and obtaining crop yields that have an increased nutritional and medicinal value to promote human health.

Guzmán received her BS and MS in Biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Texas Woman’s University in Denton, respectively. Her PhD in Agronomy and Horticulture, with a focus on carotenogenesis for the production of pro-vitamin A in Capsicum annuum, was earned from NMSU. Guzmán states her motivation for becoming a researcher originated from her initial interest in pre-med-focused biology but later changed her academic path to food production and chemistry. Within this field, she strives to understand the best way to grow food in an ever-changing environment.

Guzmán plans to continue her research in plant physiology in response to environmental stress and expand her studies into monitoring food quality exposed to similar stresses. Aside from her research, Guzmán states, “I have many responsibilities in my role as Associate Professor of Horticulture, but my favorite responsibility is helping students develop their career goals and see them build self-confidence while gaining knowledge to achieve their goals. The best thing to hear from a student is that they no longer doubt they can achieve their dreams.”

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eNews

NM WRRI Hosts Hybrid 67th Annual New Mexico Water Conference

NM WRRI Hosts Hybrid 67th Annual New Mexico Water Conference

by Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Specialist, & Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute hosted its 67th Annual New Mexico Water Conference last week in a hybrid format at the Las Cruces Convention Center on October 26-27, 2022. With the theme this year, Our Interconnected Communities—and Interconnected Waters, this hybrid Annual New Mexico Water Conference addressed water issues facing New Mexico communities. Over the course of a day and a half, water experts discussed a host of important and timely topics, such as connecting diverse communities, conservation programs, management strategies, and water budgets. Just over 320 total registrants and 27 speakers participated in the conference.

The day before the conference, on Tuesday, October 25, James Narvaez and Patrick Lopez of the Elephant Butte Irrigation District graciously hosted more than 20 conference participants on a field trip to numerous irrigation and stormwater management sites around the district, beginning at the Leasburg Dam near Radium Springs, New Mexico, and ending at Mesilla Dam.

The first day of the conference on Wednesday, October 26, featured recorded opening keynote remarks given by Melanie Stansbury from New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, followed by an update from Mike Hamman, the New Mexico State Engineer. Presentations throughout the rest of the morning centered around groundwater in the determining decade, collaboration needs to address intense flooding challenges, and research efforts to inform and enable management strategies for a secure water future. Wednesday’s luncheon featured a lecture titled Lessons and Visions, by Laura Paskus, Journalist and Correspondent for Our Land: New Mexico’s Environmental Past, Present, and Future on NMPBS. Lunch was followed by presentations on agricultural and managed aquifer recharge projects, water conservation in the Middle and Lower Rio Grande, and a collaboration between the New Mexico Water Data Initiative and the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District.

The second day of the conference began with a presentation by Blane Sanchez, 2nd Lieutenant Governor of the Pueblo of Isleta, highlighting the Pueblo’s perspectives on their water resources, including water rights settlement agreements and restoration plans. To highlight the importance of binational collaboration in water resources research and management, a well-rounded panel shared presentations concerning recharge in the Mesilla/Conejos-Médanos aquifer and potential management approaches for transboundary aquifers.

After this first slate of morning presentations, attendees had the opportunity to converse with water researchers at the in-person poster session in which 37 presenters from across New Mexico showcased their water research projects. Collaborators from over 20 universities, agencies, and private entities were represented during this session. Accepted abstracts and all submitted posters are currently available to conference registrants here. To wrap up the last day of the conference, two presentations related to the Draft New Mexico 50-Year Water Plan were given, followed by a panel detailing the community resilience conversations project led by NM WRRI to contribute to the 50-Year Water Plan, as well as ongoing efforts from this project to implement  research pilot projects for future water resilience across several New Mexico communities.

Conference video recordings and presentation slides will be available online for the general public in the coming week.

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eNews

Meet the Researcher, Kate Leary, Assistant Professor, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Meet the Researcher, Kate Leary, Assistant Professor, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Kate Leary is an assistant professor of hydrology for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT). She teaches several classes a year, including Fluvial Geomorphology and Environmental Justice. Leary has been in her position since 2020 and identifies that one of the most important aspects of her job is to educate the next generation of geoscientists through traditional classes, mentoring, and research. To help achieve this outcome, she is currently mentoring two master’s students and one PhD student.

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) recently awarded Leary a 104b faculty research grant for her proposal titled, Morphology of the Rio Grande will evolve with climate change; will we be ready? This research will investigate the future planform geomorphology of the Rio Grande through numerical modeling as it adjusts to future climate change. In addition to performing her work associated with this grant, Leary mentions she is “excited to continue collaborating with NM WRRI on projects related to rivers in the southwest United States.”

As a fluvial geomorphologist, Leary’s research focuses on bedform kinematics in modern and ancient river systems. Using methods such as analogue modeling and numerical computations, she can analyze and explore precise details of Earth’s surface processes, which are generally not observable on a field scale. According to Leary, some of her ongoing research projects include 1) sub-bedform scale transport dynamics over bedforms, 2) the effect of delta geomorphology on onshore saltwater sequestration, and 3) the paleo-hydrologic history of the paleo-Rio Grande during its transition from aggradation to incision.

Leary recognizes one of the most significant issues within fluvial geomorphology is how rivers will adapt to climate change, thus her most recent proposal with NM WRRI. Whether this response leads to increased flooding or riverbeds drying up, river flow changes can direly impact the environment and societies worldwide. To better prepare for either of these outcomes, Leary suggests learning from past climate changes (e.g., the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) to assist us in planning our current climate change trajectory and how to analyze our current predicament.

Leary double majored with her BA degrees in Geology and Religion from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.  Guided by her interest in learning more about river processes in the field of geosciences, she pursued a career in higher education, earning an internship at the Cascade Volcano Observatory (CVO) after college. While at the CVO, Leary worked closely with experimental debris flow flume, further advancing her passion for geoscience.  Leary states it was during this experience that she became convinced that applying to graduate school for geoscience was the right path for her. Leary then earned her PhD in Geology from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

Leary states she has found great fulfillment in her research career and would like to continue investigating transport processes in river systems as they pertain to changing climate conditions in the past, present, and future. Our interview ended with Leary quoting Steven Grace, author of Dam Nation, “When you explore water, you explore everything.”

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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.

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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.