eNews January 2018

Meet the Researcher – Caroline Scruggs, University of New Mexico

Dr. Scruggs joined the faculty at UNM in 2012, where she conducts teaching and research related to water reuse and scarcity in the arid Southwest, chemicals policy, environmental stakeholders, and sustainability in general. In teaching students, her passion is helping them gain an appreciation for the numerous perspectives surrounding natural resource and development problems, as well as guiding them toward understanding the intended and unintended consequences for health and the environment of resource use and policy decisions.

Dr. Scruggs received an NM WRRI faculty research grant in 2015 to estimate the costs of potable water reuse in an arid inland community. Building on these findings, her research assistant on the project, Jason Herman, secured additional NM WRRI student research funding to better understand the public’s willingness to pay for the various potable reuse schemes in order to maintain their current level of service. This work feeds into current and future research that Dr. Scruggs is conducting through a collaborative NSF CREST grant at UNM. Through this grant, Dr. Scruggs is working with Research Assistant Lauren Distler on the first large community survey in the arid Southwest to understand public attitudes toward indirect and direct potable water reuse. They are also studying the effects that different educational materials have on public perceptions and acceptance of potable reuse.

In collaboration with other faculty, students, and professional colleagues, Dr. Scruggs is also performing research on the opportunities and challenges for potable water reuse in arid, inland communities; the characteristics of public education and outreach programs that help communities make informed decisions about potable water reuse; and how chemicals policies, public awareness, and voluntary programs for management of hazardous chemicals could be improved in light of the inevitability of potable reuse across the Southwest.

Another NSF CREST funded project with Research Assistant Sergio Lozoya aims to understand the effect that Bernalillo County’s “There is no Poop Fairy” campaign has had on behavioral change among dog owners and decreasing pollution levels in the Rio Grande. As for future research, Dr. Scruggs says that she is “recently intrigued by the emerging idea of direct potable reuse within individual homes and buildings,” and that she will continue to be passionate about finding ways to keep hazardous chemicals out of people and the environment.

Dr. Scruggs final report, The Cost of Direct and Indirect Potable Water Reuse in a Medium Sized Arid Inland Community is available here on the NM WRRI website: Jason Herman, graduate research assistant on the project prepared a final report, Measuring the Impact of Cost Increases on Consumer Acceptance of Potable Water Reuse in the Albuquerque Area, that is available by clicking here.