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eNews September 2019

WRRI Funds NMSU Faculty Blair Stringam’s Investigation of Technology to Optimize Water Delivery and Reduce Water Waste

By Holly Brause, NM WRRI Research Scientist

Dr. Blair Stringam of NMSU’s Plant and Environmental Science Department was awarded a Faculty Water Research Grant for the 2019 -2020 project period. His project is titled, Developing a Practical and Robust Feedback Control System for Open Water Channels to Deliver the Correct Amount of Water to the Intended User at the Desired Time.

Water is a limited resource, so finding ways to reduce water waste is an urgent challenge. Stringam aims to do just that by developing a better system to deliver water through open channel conveyance systems.

Open channel water systems face a number of challenges that can result in delays in water deliveries and water loss. Some of these challenges include variability in supply and demand of water, sediment accumulation, vegetation growth in channels, and inconsistencies in channel dimensions.

Many open channel water delivery systems already have some automation equipment in place in order ensure timely deliveries. Stringam will further optimize these systems by developing software that uses a feedback control computer algorithm to reduce water loss. The goal is to have a fully automated feedback control system that will efficiently operate open channel water conveyance systems.

Once the software is developed, Stringam will implement the open channel control routine here in Las Cruces on multiple reaches in the Elephant Butte Irrigation District. Field data will then be used to evaluate the performance of the software. Once perfected, this system could be used by diverse water user groups across the U.S. to operate their open channel delivery systems with minimal water loss.

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eNews September 2019

ENMU Professor Awarded NM WRRI Faculty Water Research Grant

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Administrative Assistant

Dr. Ivana Mali, Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology at Eastern New Mexico University, has recently been awarded a 2019 Faculty Water Research Grant on behalf of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) funded through state appropriations. Dr. Mali will receive funding for this project entitled, Trophic and Dietary Overlap Study between Threatened and Common Riverine turtles in the Southeast New Mexico Using Stable Isotope Analyses.

This opportunity known as “seed money” offers New Mexico university faculty startup funding to perform studies which could provide new insights into water research and allow students to gain necessary field experience. As the project progresses, other funding opportunities may become available and provide substantial support in order to see the project flourish. In Dr. Mali’s study, she hopes to perform necessary research into learning more about a state threatened riverine species known as the Rio Grande cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi), which is currently severely understudied due to its limited habitat and the overall unawareness of the species.

According to Dr. Mali, she has been studying the Rio Grande cooter since 2016, and thus far, she and her students have been the only researchers to study this turtle in New Mexico. While her previous studies have provided her with useful information regarding the turtles’ demographics in a tributary of the Pecos River known as the Black River, this upcoming study will address important factors such as diet and trophic level specifics. Mali expects her research to greatly benefit state and federal natural resource managers as well as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Currently, the USFWS is reviewing the Rio Grande cooter as a possible candidate for federal protection, but due to limited information on such an evasive species, this is proving to be quite difficult. As Dr. Mali’s study progresses, she hopes to aid the USFWS by providing key statistics to help them reach a well-informed decision.

The performance period for Dr. Mali’s project will run from June 18, 2019 to June 17, 2020 with a final report due in the summer of 2020.

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eNews September 2019

Community Science Initiative in a Northern New Mexico Drainage

By Lily Conrad, NM WRRI Research Graduate Assistant

In the month of September 2019, Andrew Black (NM WRRI), Omar Coronado Ramos (WSM MS student), and Lily Conrad (WSM MS student) traveled to northern New Mexico to begin installing cellular telemetry equipment at acequia monitoring stations throughout the Rio Hondo Valley, a drainage northwest of Taos. The goal of this study is to provide near-real time water quantity data that will be accessible to irrigators and acequia commissioners through a web interface. After a meeting with acequia mayordomos and commissioners, the study will be designed to help support the Valley’s acequia water sharing agreement over a trial period of the next two irrigation seasons.

The equipment will be installed in several sites throughout the Valley, between the communities of Valdez and Arroyo Hondo, periodically collecting water stage (elevation or height) and temperature data to be remotely sent to the interface via cellular towers. Community members and NMSU researchers plan to collaborate on site maintenance, data quality control, and analysis of system impact on water management.

Before the installation of this equipment, commissioners drove up and down the Rio Hondo manually checking flow values once per week. Once the new system is in place, each commissioner or shareholder will be able to independently have access to the same water resource information. As a result, the data will be used to create a database to assist with decision making for local needs and/or concerns. A more precise and consistent understanding of water quantity may help with water management decisions during low-flow periods.

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eNews September 2019

NMSU Student Receives NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant

By Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

In June 2019, Juliano Penteado de Almeida, a graduate student in the NMSU Department of Civil Engineering, received an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant entitled, Enhanced Water Recovery and Membrane Scaling Mitigation for Desalination Using Innovative Electromagnetic Field (EMF) and 3D Printed Open Flow Channel Membranes. The award was funded through the cooperative agreement between Reclamation and NMSU, Center for the Development and Use of Alternative Water Supplies. Juliano is working under the guidance of his faculty advisor Dr. Pei Xu, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at NMSU.

Depletion of fresh water resources, chronic droughts, growing population, and urbanization has increased the need for developing alternative water sources. Desalination of brackish groundwater provides opportunities to enhance water security by converting saline water into drinkable water. Given the growing demand for alternative water sources, there is a pressing need for more effective and less expensive desalination methods.

The objective of this project is to develop an innovative High Recovery Reverse Osmosis (HRRO) system to treat brackish groundwater which is a critical water source, and provides a reliable, drought-resistant alternative water supply to address water shortages in arid and semiarid regions including New Mexico and the southwestern United States. The HRRO is expected to significantly reduce chemical demands, operational costs, energy, and negative environmental impacts.

The research for this project is being developed at the Environmental Laboratory at NMSU. Testing of the innovative HRRO process is planned to take place in Santa Teresa, NM, which is experiencing drastically reduced surface water supplies, declining groundwater quality and quantity, and the cumulative effects of more than a decade of drought conditions.

“We have been running experiments that are demonstrating the effectiveness of EMF to produce drinkable water using less chemicals than conventional systems. The results are very promising and we are very excited with this research,” explains Juliano. At the 64th Annual New Mexico Water Conference in November 2019, Juliano will be presenting his research during the poster session.

Juliano received a BS in Civil Engineering, a Specialist Diploma in Environmental Management, and an MS in Sanitary and Environmental Engineering from the State University of Ponta Grossa, located in his home country of Brazil. Juliano expects to complete his studies at NMSU and graduate with a PhD in Civil Engineering in May of 2021. After graduation, Juliano plans on continuing his research on desalination and its water security applications, an area he believes is essential to sustainability.