New Mexico Water eNews


March 2021

Megan Begay, BS student at New Mexico Highlands University, in the field conducting water sampling using a handheld multiparameter water meter.

NMHU Student Awarded NM WRRI Water Research Grant to Study Water Quality in the Upper Pecos River
by Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

The Upper Pecos watershed is part of the larger Rio Grande Basin. It extends from the headwaters of the Pecos River in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to where Interstate Highway 25 crosses the Pecos near San Jose, New Mexico. The Upper Pecos River provides water for wildlife habitats and the public water supply, and supports recreation, agriculture, and tourism. However, it has been hypothesized that increasing public and private land usage in the watershed could degrade the water quality of the Upper Pecos River. In order to reduce any potential water quality degradation, the Upper Pecos community needs data that can help them make informed management decisions. The first step in this process would be to conduct a water quality monitoring study to determine the current condition of the Upper Pecos River and its response to increasing land usage.

Unfortunately, water quality data are not regularly collected throughout the Upper Pecos watershed. To help address this knowledge gap, NM WRRI has awarded New Mexico Highlands University’s Megan Begay a Student Water Research Grant to assess the overall water quality of the Upper Pecos River. The project entitled, Water Quality Monitoring of the Upper Pecos River; Protecting the Pecos with Baseline Data, seeks to establish the baseline water quality levels of the Upper Pecos River. Under the guidance of her faculty advisor, Dr. Jennifer Lindline, Begay will collect data on a bi-weekly basis at six monitoring sites along the Upper Pecos River. The data being collected are water temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, pH, and turbidity. The project seeks to define monthly and seasonal water quality variations on the Upper Pecos River, and to inform restoration efforts by the Upper Pecos Watershed Association.

Read entire article by clicking here.

NMSU Student, Thiloka Edirisooriya, Awarded NM WRRI Water Research Grant to Study Converting Microplastics from Wastewaters to H2 Energy
by Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

The term microplastics refers to any fragmented plastic material with sizes less than 5 mm. In a 2017 worldwide study by Orb Media, researchers found that over 80 percent of tap water samples tested positive for microplastics. The U.S. had the highest contamination rate of any nation with more than 94 percent of tap water samples containing plastic fibers. Microplastics are found in the effluent of water treatment plants, industrial wastewaters, rivers, lakes, and oceans. A recent report in Science indicates that approximately 0.48–1.27 million tons of plastic debris enter oceans annually. Microplastics have the potential to cause harmful effects on human health (endocrine disrupting chemicals and disease-causing microbes) and ecological environments (invasive species can use them to travel to new habitats). For these reasons, it is important to remove microplastics from water before consumption and before releasing water into the environment.

However, due to the intrinsic physical and chemical characteristics of microplastics, removal from water or wastewater is difficult. Studies suggest that treatment technologies such as membrane bioreactors, activated sludge, hydrocyclone, coagulation, and filtration are effective at removing microplastics with sizes larger than 1 mm, but large amounts of smaller microplastics still pass through the existing water and wastewater treatment processes. There are some processes that can be used to remove or degrade microplastics like membrane filtration, or thermal, chemical, and catalytic oxidation, but these technologies are expensive and often have high energy requirements. Therefore, NM WRRI has awarded a Student Water Research Grant to Thiloka Edirisooriya as she works to develop an efficient and sustainable method to degrade micro-and nano-plastics from water. Under the guidance of her faculty sponsors, Dr. Huiyao Wang and Dr. Pei Xu, the project entitled, Solar reforming of microplastics in water for H2 production and degradation using nanocomposite photocatalysts, will use photocatalysis while producing hydrogen (H2) under solar reforming.

Read entire article by clicking here.

Meet the Researcher

Huiyao Wang, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University
by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

 This month for Meet the Researcher, we had the opportunity to interview Huiyao Wang, an associate professor of Materials Engineering for the Department of Civil Engineering at New Mexico State University (NMSU). Wang has worked at NMSU since 2013 and specializes in advanced research on novel materials and innovative energy for water treatment, solar energy, fuel cells, nanomaterials, and analytical devices. He teaches Fundamentals of Environment Engineering, and has instructed other NMSU courses in the past. Huiyao acknowledges that water is one of the most important factors of life for human beings, and has therefore dedicated his career to developing and researching new opportunities to reuse and preserve it.

 Wang received his higher education entirely from Lanzhou University in Lanzhou, China. He earned a BS in Physics (1987), an MS in Semiconductor Physics and Devices (1993), and a PhD in Condensed Matter Physics (1998). His PhD work focused on preparing nano-structure photocatalytic metal oxide thin films to degrade dye wastewater by sunlight. Huiyao is currently a part of the American Society of Civil Engineering, and the Materials Research Society (International). He has additionally served as a guest editor for the journal Catalysts.

Read entire article by clicking here.

NM WRRI Publishes First Two Technical Completion Reports from the New Mexico Universities Produced Water
Synthesis Project

by Carolina Mijares, NM WRRI Program Manager

In January of 2020, NM WRRI initiated Year 1 of the NM Universities Produced Water Synthesis Project (NMUPWSP) with researchers at NM WRRI, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Tech, and The University of New Mexico (UNM). This collaboration is funded through state appropriations for a statewide water assessment. The project's Year 1 goal was to synthesize information on produced water science and management. NMUPWSP has now completed Year 1 projects, resulting in the publication of the first two technical completion reports. The project is ongoing and has an overall goal of bringing together experts in the areas of treatment technology, geochemistry, seismology, hydrogeology, policy, data management and analysis, stakeholder engagement, and system science to provide an independent understanding of the broad implications of produced water management decisions on regional water budgets.

NM WRRI is pleased to announce the publication of Technical Completion Report No. 390 Analysis of the Relationship Between Water, Oil, & Gas in New Mexico: Investigation of Past and Future Trends by Drs. Bruce Thomson and Janie Chermak from UNM.

Also available is Technical Completion Report No. 391 Development of a Multi-Method Dynamic Simulation Model: Exploring opportunities for Produced Water Reuse by Dr. Saeed Langarudi et al.

PhD Student, Sara M. Torres, Begins Research on
the Life Cycle Assessment of Pecan Orchards in the
Mesilla Valley

by Carolina Mijares, NM WRRI Program Manager

PhD student Sara M. Torres' dissertation follows the life cycle of pecan orchards to identify the water and environmental impacts at each stage of pecan production from cradle-to-gate. Cradle refers to the establishment of the orchard and gate represents the pecans leaving the orchard. The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) will compare orchards using different irrigation schemes, including flood, drip, and micro-sprinklers in the Mesilla Valley. New Mexico is the second-largest pecan producer in the country, and Doña Ana County is the highest pecan-producing county in the United States. With this research, Sara hopes to provide producers with sustainability tradeoffs to help inform decisions on how to make pecan production more sustainable from cradle-to-gate.

This project has provided Sara the opportunity to get to know the pecan production culture in the Mesilla Valley. She has had the chance to talk with producers one-on-one and has learned a lot about the hopes and dreams producers have for the Valley. Sara states, "Being in the field speaking with stakeholders is my favorite part of my current role."

Read entire article by clicking here.

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