The Survival and Growth of Spirulina Spp. in the Saline Groundwaters of New Mexico
New Mexico has some 15 billion acre-feet of saline groundwater. Much of this water has a salinity greater than 3,000 ppm Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and thus cannot be used for potable water nor traditional agricultural activities.
The main objective of this project was to determine the technical feasibility of growing Spirulina in New Mexico using these saline groundwaters. Spirulina was chosen because it grows naturally in highly alkaline lakes in hot climates and is more readily harvested than other algae. Spirulina has many potential uses as a source of specialty chemicals, feed ingredient for livestock and aquatic organisms, and human health food.
Laboratory studies support empirical observations made at the pilot plant that several species of Spirulina will grow in full Roswell Test Facility (RTF) saline water (14,000 ppm TDS), half RTF water (7,000 ppm TDS), New Mexico State University (NMSU) geothermal water (2,000 ppm TDS) and NMSU tap water (500 ppm TDS). Further, these species are capable of excellent growth at temperatures as high as 42C. Growth appears to slow at 20C and below.
The technical feasibility of Spirulina cultivation in New Mexico using saline groundwaters has been demonstrated. Market research should be performed to determine the size and location of potential markets and the price structure. If market research data is favorable, a small commercial size Spirulina culture operation should be established and operated for at least a year to determine actual operating and capital costs.
Keywords: Spirulina Spp., saline groundwaters, roswell test facility, spirulina cultivation