eNews January 2022

NM WRRI Director Shares Institute Contributions to 50-Year Water Plan During New Mexico Water Dialogue’s 28th Annual Meeting

NM WRRI Director Shares Institute Contributions to 50-Year Water Plan During New Mexico Water Dialogue’s 28th Annual Meeting

By Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Specialist

In New Mexico and the American Southwest, water scarcity is one of the largest challenges to the resilience of multiple communities due to the general drying trend in the region over the last four decades and the forecasted impacts of higher temperatures and more variable precipitation. There is an urgent need for more collaborative approaches that can address water scarcity on a regional scale while increasing the resilience of the overall system. The necessity of addressing long-term challenges to New Mexico’s water resources led Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham to task the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (NM ISC) with developing a 50-Year Water Plan for the state, centered around the pillars of stewardship, equity, and sustainability. After work on the 50-Year Water Plan began in early 2021, the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) partnered with the NM ISC to assist in the development of the plan.

On January 13, 2022, as one of the presenters during the 28th Annual Meeting of the New Mexico Water Dialogue, NM WRRI director Dr. Sam Fernald shared with virtual attendees an update on the institute’s work to inform the 50-Year Water Plan by collaboratively collecting and assessing regional stakeholder strategies and visions to confront local water resource challenges. In this regard, Fernald highlighted the results of breakout sessions held at the 66th Annual New Mexico Water Conference in 2021, as well as ongoing regional resilience focus groups utilizing visualizations from the NM Dynamic Statewide Water Budget (NM DSWB).

Since October of 2021, a team of NM WRRI researchers and staff have conducted stakeholder focus groups in five different regions of New Mexico to 1.) collaboratively develop understandings of the regional water dynamics, 2.) distill strategies for water management that hold clues to water resilience and 3.) determine modeling scenarios that will assess these strategies in achieving regional visions for the future. For example, in the Lower Rio Grande region of the state, historical data has shown that groundwater pumping has increased as surface water availability has steadily declined. Focus group participants recommended strategies such as expanded aquifer recharge networks and watershed restoration efforts that would hopefully help to retain flood flows and reduce sediment transport.

Dr. Fernald also shared a summary of water resilience strategies put forward by participants at the 66th Annual New Mexico Water Conference breakout sessions. Thirteen total breakout groups across five different categories (agriculture, watershed health, commercial & energy water use, public water systems, and outdoor recreation) asked participants to name their chief water concerns, challenges, and suggestions for action to achieve long-term resiliency. Some of these proposed strategies include expanded use of alternative water resources, more funding to improve outdated infrastructure, implementation of water shortage sharing agreements, and expansion of aquifer recharge practices and ecosystem service payment programs.

Next, the NM WRRI team will use preliminary and follow-up modeling to test which combination of stakeholder strategies can achieve their desired visions. Results will be shared with participants for comment before publication in an NM WRRI synthesis report to be included with the 50-Year Water Plan. The hope is that the results of this assessment will facilitate research and the development of community pilot projects for the implementation of effective strategies.

Apart from Dr. Fernald’s presentation, other presentation topics throughout the two-day virtual dialogue included an opening keynote address by Mike Hammon, chosen by Governor Lujan-Grisham in November 2021 to serve as the state’s senior water advisor, as well as a presentation by Dr. Karletta Chief on the impacts of climate change on tribal water resources, and many other presenters speaking on the Water Dialogue’s theme, “An Unprecedented Crisis: A Time to Act.” Video recordings from this year’s Water Dialogue will be made available on the NM Water Dialogue YouTube page, and conference presentation slides will be posted on the organization’s website.

eNews January 2022

NMSU PhD Student Receives Student Water Research Grant to Study Sediment Transport Management in New Mexico’s Water Systems

NMSU PhD Student Receives Student Water Research Grant to Study Sediment Transport Management in New Mexico’s Water Systems

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Sr. Student Program Coordinator

In New Mexico, sediment and sedimentation in water supply systems can cause problems. Nutrient imbalance, soil erosion, wetland degradation, and reduced reliability of water supplies and conveyance systems are some of the issues that sedimentation can cause or exacerbate. Sediment can be removed from open channels through dredging, but this process typically has an annual cost of $8-$12 per cubic meter.* Research has shown that promoting velocity and turbulence near the bed of open channels can decrease sediment from forming deposits and increase the particle transportation rate.** However, there is a knowledge gap regarding implementing an internally turbulence-inducing element in an open channel design and its effects on flow characteristics, particle motion, and transport rate.

To address this knowledge gap, NM WRRI has awarded a Student Water Research Grant to Saman Mostafazadeh-Fard. Mostafazadeh-Fard, a PhD candidate at New Mexico State University’s Department of Civil Engineering, is working on a project titled, Sediment Transport Management in New Mexico’s Water Systems Using CFD Platform Flow 3-D Code. Under the guidance of his faculty advisor, Dr. Zohrab Samani, the project aims to use an experimentally validated computational fluid dynamics (CFD) platform Flow-3D model to develop a framework for designing a turbulence-inducing open channel that can promote particle transportation rate and reduce the risk of sediment deposition in New Mexico’s water supply systems.

In order to use the proposed CFD platform Flow-3D model to design a turbulence-inducing open channel, the model needs to be validated. Various bed designs are proposed and created in the CFD platform, and their performance is evaluated and compared using parameters such as particle transport rate, near-bed region turbulent intensity, turbulent kinetic energy, and dissipation.  Cross-sectional velocity profiles, turbulent intensity in the sublayer, total hydraulic head values, and flow depth will be extracted and compared for control and turbulence-inducing designs. The particle transportation rate in simulated flows for control and turbulence-inducing designs will be extracted and compared. The goal is to maximize turbulence intensity in the sublayer, maximize particle transportation rate, and minimize head loss in the turbulence-inducing design compared to the control design.

Preliminary results have shown that the proposed method results in an increase of 5 percent in turbulence intensity in the sublayer. According to Mostafazadeh-Fard, the benefits of this project include the advancement of CFD technology for the design of water conveyance systems, including open channels in both academic and industrial environments in New Mexico. This research aims to enable civil engineers to adapt the CFD technology to improve their future water conveyance system designs, resulting in improved water quality and distribution for the citizens of New Mexico.

Mostafazadeh-Fard plans to graduate with a PhD in Civil Engineering in Fall 2022. Originally from Iran, Mostafazadeh-Fard would like to be hired in an academic role in Iran or a European country after graduation. In Mostafazadeh-Fard’s words, “I would like to have a part-time industry job along with my academic job that is related to my PhD research so that I can translate my research into a real-world product or solution.”

* D.L. Brandon, R.A. Price. 2007. Summary of Available Guidance and Best Practices for Determining Suitability of Dredged Material for Beneficial Uses. Vicksburg, Mississippi: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Dredging Operations and Environmental Research Program, ERDC/EL.

** D. Butler., R. May., and J. Ackers. 2003. Self-cleansing sewer design based on sediment transport principles. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering ASCE. 129(4), 276-282. AND B.M., Sumer, L.H.C., Chua., N.S. N.S. Cheng., and J. Fredsøe. 2003. The influence of turbulence on bedload sediment transport. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering ASCE.  129(8), 585–596.

eNews January 2022

Meet the Researcher, Caitriana Steele, Coordinator, USDA & Associate Professor, New Mexico State University

Meet the Researcher, Caitriana Steele, New Mexico State University

by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Our researcher for this month is Caitriana (Caiti) Steele, coordinator for the United States Department of Agriculture Southwest Climate Hub and college associate professor in the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department at New Mexico State University (NMSU). She teaches two classes (GIS for Natural Resource Scientists, and Advanced Spatial Analysis) and has mentored several students as their faculty advisor. She regularly serves on student committees supporting her students’ geospatial research. In her role as coordinator for the Climate Hub, Steele is responsible for coordinating partnerships and outreach across the Southwest Climate Hub region, which includes New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Hawaii, and the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands. Steele states that the most important aspect of her role is staying on top of the most recent scientific findings of how climate change is impacting the region and making sure that information is being shared with stakeholders.

Steele has an extensive history with the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute and has worked with its current director, Sam Fernald, on multiple projects since 2008. Projects have included the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research project, Climate Change Impacts on New Mexico’s Mountain Sources of Water, and more recently a project by The University of California Merced titled, Securing a Climate Resilient Water Future for Agriculture and Ecosystems Through Innovations in Measurement, Management, and Markets, funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Steele is involved in several different research areas, including climate change engagement and communication, water resources and snowmelt hydrology, and spatial technologies for rangeland ecology, management, and research. Several of her tasks involve leading research investigations, training her colleagues in climate adaptation practices, GIS support, remote sensing, and helping to develop collaboration opportunities for her team. At the moment, Steele is beginning a review of the challenges of adapting southwestern water systems to climate change. She states that many individuals are “familiar with the ways in which water can be used more efficiently in rural and urban areas, but there are institutional, economic, social, and cultural challenges and barriers that prevent people from adopting water-efficient practices.”

Steele earned her BS and PhD degrees in Geography from the King’s College in London, United Kingdom (UK). She has previous professional experience as a post-doctoral fellow and as an assistant administrator for the University of Southampton, UK. During her time as an undergraduate, Steele states that she was inspired by the work of geomorphology professors, Denys Brunsden and John Thornes. “Professor Brunsden brought the physical world to life for me, and I became fascinated by the processes driving landscape evolution and vegetation change,” Steele states. “It was because of Professor Brunsden that I decided to [pursue] a PhD.”

Steele has co-authored over 35 peer-reviewed journal articles along with several book chapters containing her extensive research. Her latest collaboration was on a study now published in the Journal of Arid Environments earlier this year and is titled, Movement, activity, and landscape use patterns of heritage and commercial beef cows grazing Chihuahuan Desert rangeland. In the last five years, Steele has participated in 50 outreach efforts as a keynote speaker, presenter, and co-organizer for meetings associated with climate change, drought, and agriculture. She has also been invited to several grant-review panels. Steele has provided her expertise as a peer-reviewer for journals including The Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, Fire Ecology, Water Resources and Rural Development, and Transactions in Geoscience and Remote Sensing.

In regards to her future goals, Steele hopes to be able to look back on her career with the Climate Hub and with NMSU and see she made a difference. Steele mentions that she wants to “continue helping people learn about climate change, what they can do to adapt to climate change impacts, and how they can act more sustainably to reduce our human footprint on our planet.” With respect to teaching, she would like to continue helping students with their GIS and remote sensing research. She looks forward to any additional opportunities to work with NM WRRI, NMSU, and other universities on topics involving building resilience in agriculture, water systems, and southwestern communities. For those looking to join the research field, Steele had this to say: “where you end up isn’t always where you planned you would be. Listen to your heart and your head — and an inspirational professor or two.”