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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

 

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April 2022 eNews

NMSU Student Receives Water Research Grant to Study Uses for the Byproducts of Hydrothermal Liquefaction

NMSU Student Receives Water Research Grant to Study Uses for the Byproducts of Hydrothermal Liquefaction

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Sr. Student Program Coordinator

Nitrate is one of the major pollutants of concern in New Mexico water. Ingesting high concentrations of nitrate can cause harmful effects in humans, including an increased risk of cancer. In recent years, increases in nitrate concentrations have been observed in the Rio Grande. These nitrates are likely from agricultural fertilizers and wastewater effluents from large cities like Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and El Paso. Current methods for nitrate removal are ion exchange, reverse osmosis, and electrodialysis, which can have high energy requirements and high costs. Hydrothermal liquefaction-char (HTL-char) is a promising adsorbent for the removal of lead and copper from wastewater*, but to evaluate HTL-char as an adsorbent for anions like nitrate, more information is needed on its ability to adsorb anions.

Fortunately, Hengameh Bayat, a PhD candidate at New Mexico State University’s Chemical and Material Engineering Department, is working on research evaluating nitrate removal from water using food waste HTL-char. NM WRRI has awarded Bayat a Student Water Research Grant for a project titled, Wastewater treatment and water recycling through the use of byproducts from hydrothermal liquefaction of food waste.

Hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) is a technology used to produce bio-crude oil from food waste. Byproducts of HTL are a nutrient-rich aqueous phase (HTL-AP), and char. HTL implementation has been limited by the lack of value of these byproducts. Therefore, Bayat’s research not only evaluates the use of HTL-char to remove nitrate from water, but also evaluates the use of HTL-AP to provide needed moisture and additional carbon and nutrients to compost.

Under the guidance of her Faculty Advisor, Dr. Catherine Brewer, Bayat’s project has four objectives: 1) Produce and characterize the surface properties and ion adsorption capacity of HTL-chars prepared through co-HTL of food waste and red mud; 2) Quantify the effects of water pH, contact time, and initial nitrate concentration on adsorption performance and mechanisms for nitrate adsorption; 3) Characterize food waste HTL-AP for compost-relevant properties, including pH, total carbon, total-N, ammonia-N, phosphorus, salinity, metals, and organics composition; and 4) Evaluate the feasibility of HTL-AP addition to compost in terms of microbial activity, nutrient availability (C/N ratio), moisture, and quality of the finished compost.

According to Bayat, using HTL-char produced from food waste would reduce nitrate removal energy use and costs while also helping to meet waste management and energy needs. The use of HTL-AP in compost systems will provide moisture, adjust the pH, and increase the amount of nutrients in compost while maintaining the advantages of compost as a fertilizer. Bayat presented her work at the 66th Annual New Mexico Water Conference and the 2021 AlChE annual meeting in Boston.

Originally from Iran, Bayat received her bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Arak University, and a master’s degree from the Material and Energy Research Center at the University of Tehran. Bayat plans to graduate with her PhD from NMSU in Chemical Engineering in 2022. After graduation, Bayat plans to pursue a career in academia. She is interested in converting waste materials to value-added products for water conservation and remediation.

* Bayat, H., et al., Removal of Heavy Metal Ions from Wastewater Using Food Waste Char. In 2020 ASABE Annual International Virtual Meeting, ASABE: St. Joseph, MI, 2020; p 1.

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April 2022 eNews

Meet the Researcher, Brad Talon Newton, The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Meet the Researcher, Brad Talon Newton, Hydrogeologist, The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month for Meet the Researcher, we are featuring Brad Talon Newton, a hydrogeologist at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR) at The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT) in Socorro, New Mexico. He conducts hydrogeologic research, education and outreach, and student mentoring. According to Newton, the research component is highly important since water problems (both quality and quantity) are ubiquitous and require top-quality science solutions. He currently advises two master’s students in the Earth and Environmental Science Department at NMT and intends to co-teach karst hydrology in the future.

Newton has an extended work history with the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI). He has been an essential contributor to the Statewide Water Assessment (2014-2017) and has produced several reports describing his research efforts. As described by the NM WRRI website, this project complements existing state agency water resource assessments and provides new, dynamic, spatially representative assessments of water budgets for the entirety of New Mexico. Newton has also advised several students in the development of the Python Recharge Assessment for New Mexico Aquifers (PyRANA) model, which estimates runoff and diffuse recharge. Newton’s interests include collaborating with NM WRRI to improve the PyRANA model with new data he obtained while participating in a study in the Salt Basin. By using the chloride mass balance method to calculate the proportion of runoff in watersheds that recharges the groundwater system, he believes this could enhance the PyRANA model to estimate focused recharge throughout New Mexico.

Newton has performed a wide variety of hydrogeologic research in New Mexico since his employment with NMBGMR in 2007. This research has ranged from regional-scale characterization to local hydrologic processes. One of his first extensive multidisciplinary studies took place in the Sacramento Mountains with the goal of improving knowledge of subsurface geology and the regional hydrogeology. Newton believes this research helped corroborate several other Roswell Artesian Basin studies by assisting in the development of a better hydrogeologic conceptual model. Newton has additionally led groundwater studies along the Animas River after the Gold King Mine Spill in 2015, with the objective of assessing spill impacts on the groundwater quality in New Mexico. By characterizing the hydrogeologic system, Newton and his team were able to identify interactions between shallow and deep aquifers that control the spatial variability of groundwater chemistry in the area.

According to Newton, one of the biggest issues facing New Mexico and the southwestern U.S. is the concern for future water availability. “As populations continue to grow, water demand increases. However, warmer temperatures associated with climate change will very likely result in a decrease in water supply for most communities in New Mexico,” Newton explains, “Therefore, in order to quantify the water balance under these new conditions resulting from climate change, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms by which precipitation in the high mountains makes its way into regional streams and aquifers.”

Newton received his BS in Geology (2001), and MS in Hydrology (2004) from NMT. He pursued his PhD in Civil Engineering (2013) from the School of Planning, Architecture, and Civil Engineering at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland. Newton mentions that his desire to become a scientist originated early in life. His interests in rock climbing and cave exploration led him to pursue his degree in the earth sciences. He was drawn to the field of Hydrology due to its quantitative nature and the real-world impacts it has on the communities and people of New Mexico.

Newton intends to continue his hydrogeologic studies in New Mexico. He plans to expand his research areas to include more complex aqueous geochemistry modeling. This type of research would assist in determining the feasibility of aquifer storage and recovery (artificial recharge), which he feels is one of the best techniques to effectively increase community water supply. Lastly, Newton would also like to perform more karst hydrology projects in cave systems around New Mexico.

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eNews March 2022

NMSU Student Receives Student Water Research Grant to Study Mitigation of Harmful Algal Blooms

NMSU Student Receives Student Water Research Grant to Study Mitigation of Harmful Algal Blooms

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Sr. Student Program Coordinator

Algae are a group of aquatic organisms that form the base of the aquatic food chain. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur when algae grow out of control in freshwater or marine environments producing toxins, dissolved oxygen depletion, and anoxic conditions. There have been reports of HABs causing harmful poisoning effects on animals, including mammals, birds, and aquatic life across the United States. These HABs can also cause kidney and liver toxicity, skin rashes, and respiratory problems in humans. HABs are occurring worldwide due to polluted water caused by human activities, revealing a need for effective technologies that help mitigate the effects of HABs and prevent future blooms.

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute has awarded a Student Water Research Grant to a graduate student at New Mexico State University (NMSU) to investigate this topic. Wijayalath Kodige Nimasha Lakshani Abeykoon, a master’s student in Environmental Engineering, is working on research focused on mitigating HABs using modified clay with her faculty advisor Dr. Yanyan Zhang.

The project, Mitigation of Harmful Algal Blooms Using Modified Clays, will use porous clays to adsorb and settle down algal cells. Abeykoon is working with clay because it is a naturally available material with no significant environmental impacts, making it an attractive solution for HAB mitigation. Abeykoon and her research team have modified the natural clays to enhance their adsorption properties. The project’s innovative method of using dialysis tubes with packed modified clay inside will recover phosphate (a main ingredient in developing HABs) from water bodies to avoid phosphate release from the sediments.

According to Abeykoon, the proposed solution for HAB mitigation is expected to control existing algal blooms in a water body by settling harmful algae and adsorbing algal toxins. This solution is also expected to prevent future blooms by precipitating phosphate in water. As Abeykoon explains, “Considering its low cost, regeneration potential, and eco-friendly properties, the proposed solution has the potential to be used for HAB control and prevention on a large scale.” Abeykoon presented this research at the 66th Annual New Mexico Water Conference in October, 2021.

Originally from Sri Lanka, Abeykoon earned her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Peradeniya. She graduated in December with a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering at NMSU and will continue her research as a PhD student at NMSU’s Environmental Engineering department. Abeykoon will begin her PhD Program in the fall of 2022 and says she is “delighted to start this new chapter of my life.” Abeykoon adds, “I hope the knowledge, experience, and skills I gain through this chapter of my life will guide me to an academic and research career in [the] same field that I am wishing for.”

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eNews March 2022

Meet the Researcher, Christopher Brown, Professor, New Mexico State University

Meet the Researcher, Christopher Brown, Professor, New Mexico State University

by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month’s featured researcher is Christopher Brown, a professor in the Department of Geography at New Mexico State University (NMSU). Brown teaches three Viewing a Wider World courses (Urban Geography, Economic Geography, and the Geography of Latin America), and he emphasizes the need for team-based learning among his students by providing them with relevant news stories and discussion topics to help facilitate understanding and involvement. Brown is also the inaugural Faculty Fellow for the NMSU Beyond Borders Community of Practice, where he works with faculty across campus to advance border studies and research, with a special focus on supporting the development of external funding proposals.

Brown is currently on several research teams with unique project goals and objectives. One includes an NSF proposal exploring ways to make food supply chains more resilient. Brown also has worked with researchers outside of NMSU to develop a concept paper shared with the incoming commissioner of the United States International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), seeking to address environmental and water resource issues in the U.S.-Mexico region. Brown recently learned that this paper has been well received by both the US and Mexican sections of the IBWC, and discussions are underway to explore the establishment of a binational science advisory group, based on the ideas in the paper. According to Brown, the research he is working on to advance water resource management issues in border regions could be a fundamental issue that applies to many global regions. “I have an interest in the comparative nature of the political ecology of these regions, and I think this provides a very useful lens on how to balance globalization and related economic development, with the need to better manage natural resources, especially water resources,” Brown states.

In support of his research, Brown and his colleagues have been funded by several organizations, including current awards endorsed by the Agricultural Research Service Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Fort Sumner Irrigation District. He has additionally been the recipient of 14 awards, honors, and scholarships with his most recent being the NMSU Research Council’s Award for Exceptional Achievements in Creative Scholarly Activity.

Brown is an active member of six service committees and organizations, including the Chair for NMSU’s Department of Geography Promotion and Tenure Committee, and Co-Director of the NMSU Spatial Applications Research Center. He has authored and co-authored over 50 publications, and has been an invited speaker and presenter at over 145 different conferences, workshops, seminars, etc., over the course of his career.

Brown graduated with his BA in Economics with honors from San Diego State University (SDSU) in 1986, with an emphasis in environmental and energy economics. He earned his MA in Geography from Michigan State University in 1991, and in 1998 he received his PhD in a joint doctoral program with SDSU, and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Through this program, he completed his dissertation titled, A Watershed and Ecosystem Approach to Transboundary Wastewater Management in the Tijuana River Watershed. Brown’s interest in the geography of human environment interactions developed during an undergraduate course he attended, which influenced his academic interests and career arc dramatically. According to Brown, “after this class, my interest pivoted sharply from economic and business management to an interest in the geography of human-environment interactions. This, in turn, drove my interest in pursuing an MS and PhD in geography that has allowed me to study human-environment interactions in a range of varying locations.” Brown has multiple career goals for the future, including successfully advancing collaborative research and knowledge on U.S.-Mexico border issues, and supporting efforts to promote stronger support for international programs at NMSU.

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eNews February 2022

Meet the Researcher, Alfredo Granados-Olivas, Professor, Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez

Meet the Researcher, Alfredo Granados-Olivas, Professor, Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez

by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month for Meet the Researcher, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Alfredo Granados-Olivas, professor for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ). He has been a researcher and professor at UACJ for almost 35 years, and currently teaches five classes and advises eight students (five undergrad, two masters, and one doctorate). Granados-Olivas states that one of his most important roles is to promote successful agricultural engineering degree programs for students using a multimodal education system, which includes linking academic programs to agribusiness operations and government practices. Granados-Olivas states, “The responsibility of training new engineers with a philosophical approach to new challenges related to the holistic solutions to environmental problems is what makes a good engineer; however, a great engineer is one that has the ability to understand that a complex mathematical computer model that simulates a potential solution requires a human component that must be willing and able to assist in the desired outcome.” Granados-Olivas adds, “Therefore, we must teach and train a new generation of engineers with a high level of humanitarian commitment to balance the required equilibrium that we need to compromise with society while applying learned skills.”

Granados-Olivas has been associated with the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) for many years as a key contributor in several projects, conferences, workshops, and other research activities. As a graduate student, he spent a considerable amount of time working with NM WRRI, where he obtained unwavering support and resources for his research. Granados-Olivas recounts that one of the most influential people he met at NM WRRI was the late Bobby J. Creel (associate and interim director of NM WRRI from 1986 to 2010), who understood the importance of his research and its proposed integrated binational components. He recalls Creel as being “a visionary of his time since he was also concerned with the transboundary approach to groundwater resources along the U.S. and Mexico border.” Granados-Olivas found friends, mentors, and colleagues at NM WRRI, including Dr. John W. Hawley, Dr. John F. Kennedy, Dr. Zohrab Samani, and Dr. Chris Brown, who helped him understand geology, geomorphology, hydrogeology, and geographic information systems (GIS) while reviewing aerial photography and other remote sensing information associated with his research area.

Presently, Granados-Olivas has been working with NM WRRI’s current director, Dr. Alexander (Sam) Fernald, on multiple action items regarding transboundary water management and water sustainability at the border region between the U.S. and Mexico. He has also been a major contributor in the Two Nations One Water binational conference, which has been held annually by NM WRRI, New Mexico State University (NMSU), and UACJ. Granados-Olivas describes this event as one where community leaders, colleagues, and official water institutions from both sides of the border can come together to discuss and share information towards a holistic approach to water endeavors. Furthermore, he has been working with NM WRRI’s Dr. Holly Brause, on distributing the results of collaboration between NM WRRI and UACJ regarding challenges to the Paso del Norte region, and water sustainability through a video interview found here.

Granados-Olivas is also a part of the doctoral committee for the Water Science and Management Program, and has been mentoring Ana Cristina Garcia Vásquez, who is working as a graduate research assistant at NM WRRI. Ana Cristina’s research focuses on identifying different sources of groundwater recharge at the Mexican side of the Mesilla/Conejos Médanos transboundary aquifer system while using isotopic measurements. According to Granados-Olivas, Ana Cristina’s research is relevant for the binational region because water origin and residence time of groundwater resources are important factors for researchers to know beforehand so they can better prepare for and project watershed sustainability. This research is additionally being supervised by Dr. Alexander (Sam) Fernald, Dr. Zohrab Samani, and Dr. Andrew Robertson, and was recently published in the open-access journal, Water, under the title, Investigation of the origin of Hueco bolson and Mesilla basin Aquifers (US and Mexico) with isotopic data analysis.

Granados-Olivas graduated with his BS in Agricultural Economics and Rural Development from Escuela Superior de Agricultura Hermanos Escobar, and his MS degree in Groundwater Hydrology from UACJ both located in Chihuahua, Mexico. He earned his PhD from NMSU in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in Agronomy with an emphasis on soil/water interactions. Granados-Olivas explains that his peers greatly influenced his decision to become a researcher in his graduate studies courses. He was a Sam Steel NMSU alumni, and during that time, he had the opportunity to work with remarkable researchers that changed the course of his professional life. Granados-Olivas attributes Dr. Curtis H. Monger as one of the most influential people who helped guide his study interests and assisted him in discovering methods to make his research stronger. Monger helped him develop more detailed research questions and better analyze logical and scientific results, which allowed him to improve his capacity to independently solve the challenges he confronted during his training at NMSU. This experience is one that Granados-Olivas continues to reference as a foundation for his present work.

Granados-Olivas’s professional research focuses on the sustainability of water resources on arid ecosystems to promote equity and sustainable development in rural communities of Mexico. His expertise centers around hydrogeology, interactions between surface water and groundwater, aquifer recharge, GIS, and remote sensing. Currently, he is the private investigator for a Microsoft Artificial Intelligence for Earth Project, which will be used to promote humanitarian technology, water conservation, and promote maximum yields at a desert irrigation district in northcentral Mexico. This project will simulate training farmers on using big data technology to make real-time decisions while promoting irrigation efficiency. In a previous project titled, Sustainable water resources for irrigated agriculture in a desert river basin facing drought and competing demands: from characterization to solutions, awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to The University of Texas at El Paso’s (UTEP) Center for Environmental Resource Management, Granados-Olivas was a key contributor for the binational aspect. This project involved five U.S. universities (NMSU, UTEP, Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University, Michigan Technological University, and The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology), and one Mexican university (UACJ). This collaboration was formed in 2015 and lasted through 2021 performing research and discovering new ways to better understand agricultural water demand challenges under a climate change scenario at the Paso del Norte region (Las Cruces, El Paso, Ciudad Juárez).

An additional major project Granados-Olivas collaborates with the NM WRRI on is the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (TAAP) in the Paso del Norte region. He states that the “evolution of different challenges toward a holistic approach into watershed management have increased and there are new and complex questions to solve as climate change is more evident at the regional scale. Increased demands, lack of precipitation and the rise of temperatures have exposed vulnerabilities in surface water availability, and has caused groundwater to become a major player towards a potential solution for water demands for both countries.” Because of these issues, Granados-Olivas affirms there is a need to follow a hydro-diplomatic approach that would allow the U.S. and Mexico to mutually benefit from these results. For this reason, Granados-Olivas believes the TAAP project is one of the most important initiatives that both the U.S. and Mexico have agreed upon to openly discuss groundwater sustainability and the exchange of information via diplomatic routes. He has high expectations for this research effort and considers it an exciting approach into future binational agreements to manage groundwater at the border region.

In addition to his university research, Granados-Olivas mentions that he has a small consulting firm (Granados Engineering AC) working on precision agriculture in Ascensión, Chihuahua, at the Center for Technology Transfer of Artificial Intelligence for Agriculture. At this site, he and his colleagues evaluate technologies (e.g., drones, multi-depth soil sensors, and meteorological data) to improve irrigation efficiencies in pecan orchards while estimating real-time evapotranspiration and delivering this information to farmers to make on-site decisions.

Granados-Olivas has been certified by Harvard University’s School of Public Health and Environment as a specialist on Alternative Energy and Energy Efficiency. The Watershed Management Group, which works to complement the water-food-energy nexus, has also acknowledged him as a certified engineer in Water Harvesting Design. Since 2005, Granados-Olivas has been part of the Sistema Nacional de Investigadores from Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, and recently he received an award from the National Association of Schools and Faculties of Engineering of Mexico, recognizing his academic efforts in training the newer generation of engineers and water researchers.

Regarding future goals and ambitions, Granados-Olivas states that he is very close to retiring from his years of service in academia and research. Despite this, he reassures that he will still be closely linked to UACJ as a part-time researcher to complete ongoing projects and assist his students in completing their research activities. A few of those projects involve training the next generation of water specialists for binational collaboration and forming networks within informal environments in hopes of creating long-term partnerships. “Water has become one of the most important natural resources, if not the most important one around the world, and our region is no exception. We see all around us different stages of water crisis and we need to move forward in creating a collaboration agenda that will help us resolve different kinds of water issues along the transdisciplinary arena (environment-society-economy) in which water plays a major role.” Granados-Olivas explains, “Instead of spending precious resources on the planning process, we need more action items to ensure water sustainability for the near future, and most importantly at the binational level. . . Water research is the way to go to any scholars seeking a productive and exciting future. Any subject related to this field of work is a challenging and powerful driver in accomplishing a successful career with water management. Go for it!”

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eNews February 2022

UNM Student Receives Student Water Research Grant to Study the Impact of Forest Fires on Local Hydrology

UNM Student Receives Student Water Research Grant to Study the Impact of Forest Fires on Local Hydrology

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Sr. Student Program Coordinator

In 2016, the Dog Head Fire burned almost 18,000 acres of Cibola National Forest across the Manzano Mountains in central New Mexico. This fire may have impacted springs and wetlands in the area, which are susceptible to pressure from climate change, increases in groundwater pumping, land-use changes, and wildfires. A study that produces historical water quality data for spring systems is needed to better understand the possible impacts of this forest fire on the local hydrology.

NM WRRI has awarded Naomi DeLay, a graduate student at The University of New Mexico, a Student Water Research Grant to study two springs in the Cibola National Forest, the Ojo del Rancho del Medio and the Ojo del Rancho del Medio West springs. The study, titled Hydrogeochemical Analysis of Springs in the Cibola National Forest: Implications for Springs/Wetlands Sustainability & Geochemical Response to Forest Fire, aims to evaluate whether the recent Dog Head Fire ash/material will have an impact on the water composition of the springs and if the springs will exhibit different trace element characteristics than other regional springs.

Under the guidance of her faculty advisor Dr. Laura Crossey, DeLay will be sampling local surface materials and performing mobility experiments on the solid samples to identify the possible sources of solutes. Total solid chemistry and batch mobility experiments on the ash, soil, sediments, and bedrock within the study area will be used to determine the sources of mobile elements being released into spring waters, focusing on the mobility of ions from ash deposits from the Dog Head Fire.

According to DeLay, the methods used in this study could provide means to better understand how springs and other water sources are affected by environmental events like forest fires. As Delay explains, “by understanding the conditions and impacts to the flow and water quality of these springs, we can better understand the sustainability of these spring systems. These mountain recharge springs are important water resources for the local communities and wildlife in these areas. Livestock and wildlife have historically depended on these springs, so the quality of our springs affects food webs and the health of these ecosystems.” DeLay has presented this work at the 65th and 66th Annual New Mexico Water Conference.

Originally from northern New Mexico, DeLay earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Science with an emphasis in Geology at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 2017. DeLay expects to graduate from The University of New Mexico in 2022 with a Masters of Science in Earth and Planetary Science.