eNews November 2019

64th Annual New Mexico Water Conference Focuses on Tribal Perspectives on Water Issues

By Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Nearly 250 participants from across the state and region gathered at the Pueblo of Pojoaque’s Buffalo Thunder Resort near Santa Fe, New Mexico for the 64th Annual New Mexico Water Conference on November 7-8. With the theme this year Common Water, Sacred Water: Tribal perspectives on water issues in New Mexico, this first-of-its-kind Annual New Mexico Water Conference addressed water issues facing the tribes, nations, and pueblos across New Mexico.

The day before the conference began, participants had the opportunity to attend one of two field trips. Santa Clara Pueblo hosted a morning field trip, demonstrating to attendees the forest restoration efforts in Santa Clara Canyon following the devastation of the 2011 Las Conchas Fire. Participants in this field trip also had the chance to visit the Puye Cliff Dwellings, the ancestral home of the Santa Clara people. Later in the day, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation staff gave participants a tour of numerous project sites associated with the Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System located within San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, Nambe, and Tesuque Pueblos. As authorized by the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act, the water system will provide a firm, reliable supply of safe drinking water to residents of the Pojoaque Basin.

Over the two-day conference, tribal leaders and water experts addressed a host of important and timely topics, such as Indian water rights settlements, tribal water quality, infrastructure, climate change, watershed restoration, and the role of both traditional and modern science in water management. Slides from presentations are available on the conference website here.

The conference also hosted two luncheons with speakers. Longtime Cochiti Pueblo advocate Regis Pecos gave a stirring firsthand account of the struggle with the U.S. Government over the construction of Cochiti Dam. After concluding his presentation by asking participants to consider what future generations will inherit from us, a troupe of three and four-year-old dancers from Pojoaque Pueblo’s Early Childhood Center gave a performance of the Comanche dance, meant as a prayer for safe travel.

The Friday, November 8 luncheon featured the 2019 Albert E. Utton Memorial Water Lecture given by author Sandra Postel, based on her latest book, Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity. Postel’s lecture demonstrated ways in which farmers, cities, conservationists and engineers across the U.S and around the world are re-shaping 21st century water management to meet the challenges ahead.

This year, 43 poster presenters, many of whom were university students from across the state, showcased their current water related research projects during the poster session. As PDFs of posters become available by presenters, NM WRRI will post them on the conference website.

A conference proceedings will be prepared in the coming months, and once completed, will be available via the NM WRRI website.

eNews November 2019

NMSU Research and Creativity Water Initiative Event

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

As a part of the NMSU Research and Creativity Week, which took place November 11th through the 15th, the NMSU Water Initiative and NM Water Resources Research Institute hosted an event to highlight NMSU graduate student water research. The purpose of the event was to learn about graduate students’ water-related research at NMSU, while also creating opportunities for NMSU faculty and graduate students to collaborate on water-related research and grant proposals.

There were 13 students who presented their graduate research from six departments across three colleges. Student presentations showcased graduate research being conducted in the departments of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Plant and Environmental Sciences, Water Science and Management, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Agricultural Economics and Business, and Sociology.

Several members of campus leadership attended the event. The Deans of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Science, Engineering, and the Associate Dean for Research of Arts and Sciences all spoke about the importance of water research and how collaborating across campus has benefited the projects that their colleges are working on. The NMSU Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, Luis Cifuentes, gave the closing remarks and spoke about how NMSU is a regional leader in water research. Dr. Cifuentes also spoke about the increasing demand for water research and how NMSU is poised to solve the water research challenges of the future.

NMSU Corporate and Foundation Relations (CFR) and Research Administration Services (RAS) each gave a brief presentation about funding opportunities dealing with water. The NMSU Water Initiative works in close collaboration with CFR and RAS, and is making great strides in connecting water researchers with resources, collaborators, and the community.

To view the poster abstracts submitted by NMSU graduate students or to learn more about current water research taking place around NMSU, please visit the NMSU Water Initiative website.

eNews November 2019

NMSU Student Receives NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

Alireza Bandegi is a PhD student at NMSU in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. In June, he received an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant entitled, Electrochemical-assisted ultrafiltration membranes for simultaneous removal of As, Cd and Cr. The purpose of the study is to produce new types of electro-responsive membranes (ERMs) to electrochemically and reductively remove heavy metals from contaminated water.

The concentration of heavy metals has increased in many drinking water sources partially due to natural geological formations and also due to poor wastewater management practices. During the treatment of industrial wastewaters, toxic heavy metals of concern include cadmium (Cd), arsenic (As), and especially chromium (Cr). Cr (VI) is highly soluble and mobile because of its neutral pH, and due to the high toxicity of Cr (VI), the US EPA set the maximum concentration level (MCL) for total chromium in drinking water at 100 ppb. The New Mexico state groundwater standard for total chromium in drinking water is 50 ppb. However, high levels of chromium (250 ppb, five times higher than state groundwater standard) have recently been found in a water source in New Mexico.

Low pressure demands and wide range of chemical stability have caused ultrafiltration (UF) membranes to be widely used in water treatment processes, however, Cr (VI) removal by typical UF membranes is very limited due to the maximum rejection of 20%. Decreasing the pore size of the membrane and incorporating a charged surface can increase the heavy metal ions rejection by UF membranes.

As Alireza explains, “The biggest challenge in membrane technology is increasing the flow rate while decreasing the energy requirements used to push the fluid through the membrane. In this research, I synthesize the porous polymeric membrane using the self-assembly of block copolymers. By polymerizing the precursor in the system and removing the surfactant, I can successfully make membranes with porous structures in the nanometer size range. Consequently, the efficiency of the membrane for wastewater treatment will be improved by controlling and adjusting the size and orientation of pores within the membrane. We expect to increase the efficiency of typical polysulfone UF membrane with maximum rejection of 20% to more than 90% with our new electro-responsive UF membrane. Our new electrically conductive UF membrane is a scalable and cost-effective alternative to traditional heavy metals removal, and increases the availability of the clean drinking water which will improve human health.”

Alireza expects to complete his studies and graduate from NMSU with a PhD in Chemical Engineering in 2021. He is working under the guidance of his faculty advisor Dr. Reza Foudazi, Associate Professor of Chemical and Material Engineering at NMSU. Alireza received his BS and MS degrees in Chemical Engineering from Iran University of Science and Technology located in his home country of Iran. Alireza wants to pursue a career in research and teaching, and is especially interested in the enormous potential for research in the fields of nano- and micro-structured material.