New Mexico Water eNews


March 2018

      Dr. Antonio Lara and undergraduate Nhat Nguyen present a poster on clay pellet
      fabrication at the 2017 Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium
      at NMSU.

NMSU Undergrad Studies the Use of Clay Pellets to Clean Uranium-Contaminated Water
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Clean potable water is scarce on the Navajo Nation, thereby forcing people to consume uranium-contaminated water with levels greater than 30 ppb, according to NMSU undergraduate Nhat Nguyen. The result is an epidemic known as “Navajo neuropathy,” along with other serious health-related problems. Nguyen, working with his faculty advisor, Dr. Antonio Lara, both of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, are studying the use of natural clays to absorb heavy metals, especially uranium, via their unique cation exchange capabilities. The use of clays is a cost-effective means to clean water, but it has a drawback in that clays are difficult to manage physically. Nguyen and Lara worked on fabricating clay pellets to improve the ease of using clays to absorb contaminating metals.

Nhat Nguyen describes his NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant results of the study in his final report, “Uranium Abatement for Contaminated, Limited Water Resources Using Clay Pellets.” The report is available by clicking here. Nguyen said that one of the most memorable experiences he had on the project was a trip to Window Rock, which was the first time he had visited northern New Mexico. He and his advisor gave a short presentation on the project to the Navajo Council.

Nguyen credited his advisor, Dr. Lara, for his mentorship and guidance through his college and research life. He said of Dr. Lara, “He is an awesome and down-to-earth human being. I had an amazing time working in his lab.”

Originally from Vietnam, Nguyen moved to the U.S. in 2007 and attended Portland Lutheran High School. He will graduate from NMSU with a BS in biochemistry and a BA in chemistry in May 2018. Nguyen said he feels NMSU has prepared him well for his future, and he’s grateful for the opportunities he had as an undergraduate to work in a research lab.


NM WRRI Legislative Update
by Sam Fernald, NM WRRI Director

Earlier this month, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed House Bill 2, which includes $500,000 in FY 19 funding to NMSU to support an NM WRRI initiative, the NM Dynamic Statewide Water Budget (NMDSWB). The effort started in 2014 with support from Governor Martinez and with legislative efforts championed by State Senator Mary Kay Papen, and it has resulted in scientific advances as well as in the development of a practical water budget tool. The tool will better inform water planning in New Mexico. A steering committee comprised of members from New Mexico research universities and water-involved agencies helps make project funding decisions. Specific goals are to support the NMDSWB and the science needed to understand New Mexico’s physical water supply. The effort supports university researchers and agency collaborators to meet data, science, and research needs of New Mexico stakeholders.

The NMDSWB uses a mass balance accounting method to quantify how much water flows throughout the state, and tabulates changes in storage. All estimates are made at monthly timesteps at four spatial scales: counties, water-planning regions, major river basins, and statewide. The model includes water use data from NM Office of the State Engineer reports along with other data sources to characterize historical water supply and demand. The model also projects future scenarios based on options such as climate models, water-use efficiency, and population growth.

Advances in science are needed to inform the NMDSWB. As part of Statewide Water Assessment collaboration, the model is incorporating groundwater storage data from Rinehart and others (2016) to calibrate modeled groundwater storage change estimates where available. This will improve the estimates of other water budget components such as recharge and surface water-groundwater interaction. Additional efforts to model evapotranspiration and other fluxes in New Mexico are also underway.

Funding will also be dedicated to efforts that support the use of data and scientific research for state water planning. Through collaboration with the NM Interstate Stream Commission planning group, the NMDSWB will be ready for delivery in time for the State Water Plan Technical Report toolbox slated for completion in 2018.

A technical report now in progress will document the NMDSWB, and an additional peer-reviewed article will provide a broader context for the model. The article will be accessible to a wide audience in order for stakeholders in NM to understand the model and how it could help inform their water planning decisions.

Thank you to our New Mexico executive and legislative branches for funding water research that is vital for securing the future of the state’s water resources.

Rinehart, A. J., Mamer, E., Kludt, T., Brigitte, F., Pokorny, C., and Timmons, S., 2016, Groundwater level and storage changes in basin-fill aquifers in the Rio Grande Basin, New Mexico, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, Technical Completion Report June 2016.

   Talon Newton downloading data from a weather station in the Sacramento Mountains

Meet the Researcher

Talon Newton, NM Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Hydrogeologist Talon Newton works with the Aquifer Mapping Program at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources where he conducts research relevant to New Mexico’s water supply and future water management. Over the past nine years, his projects have ranged from basin-scale hydrogeologic characterization to watershed-scale ecohydrology. His approach is multidisciplinary and he uses a variety of hydrogeologic, geophysical, and geochemical techniques to evaluate various hydrologic processes. Newton has experience using aqueous geochemistry and environmental tracers to examine soil water dynamics, recharge processes, and groundwater-surface water interactions.

For the past few years, Newton has worked on the NM WRRI Statewide Water Assessment project. He is working on the development of a soil-water-balance model to estimate groundwater recharge for the entire state of New Mexico. Newton recently said of the effort, “Quantifying groundwater recharge on such a large scale is an extremely difficult task, but it is of vital importance for the management of the state's water supply. I am happy to be involved with this important project.”

Newton received a BS in geology from NM Tech, an MS in hydrology, also from NM Tech, and in 2013, a PhD in environmental engineering from Queen’s University, Belfast. He is an adjunct faculty member of NM Tech’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Department and has advised several graduate students on their thesis research. Newton also gives presentations to help the general public understand important water issues in the state.


      Field Trips Offered


     June 19, 2018 Pre-conference field trip
     Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour in Silverton, CO, stop at the ferricrete and
     iron bogs on Cement Creek, the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action
     (UMTRA) Project outside Durango, CO, and a visit to Lake Nighthorse.

     June 20-21, 2018
      Plenary Sessions at San Juan College

     June 22, 2018 Post-conference field trip
     Teach-In at the Navajo Shiprock Chapter House

            Registration begins mid-April 2018
        Visit the conference website for more information by clicking here.

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