New Mexico Water eNews


December 2016

From left to right: Claudia Roldan, Dr. José Cerrato, Cherie DeVore, Dr. Johanna Blake (currently a scientist with the USGS), and Fenton Bowers.

Meet the Researcher

Dr. Jose Manuel Cerrato, University of New Mexico
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Assistant Professor Jose Manuel Cerrato joined the University of New Mexico’s Department of Civil Engineering in 2013. Prior to coming to UNM, he was a post-doctoral research associate at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Cerrato received a BS in civil engineering from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras in Tegucigalpa, an MS in environmental engineering, and a PhD in civil engineering, both from Virginia Tech.

Dr. Cerrato’s research interest is related to biogeochemical processes at the interface of water and energy that affect the cycle of metals and radionuclides in the environment. He leads the E-H2O Research Group at UNM, which applies spectroscopy, microscopy, aqueous chemistry, and molecular biology tools for the study of complex environmental interactions. Link to the E-H2O Research Group website at:

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Catherine Brewer stands next to the burner used to burn pecan shells, activating the carbons required to remove carcinogenic NDMA from the underground water at White Sands Test Facility. Upper right photo: cups of pecan shells on left and activated-carbon pecan shells on right.

NMSU Professor Working to Remove Water Pollutants
by Billy Huntsman, Media Relations, NMSU College of Engineering

     Editor’s note: Dr. Catherine Brewer has received a 2016 grant through
     NM WRRI entitled, Biochar for Desalination Concentrate Management,
     a project funded by the NMSU/Bureau of Reclamation Cooperative

An assistant professor in NMSU’s Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering recently received a $373,000 grant from NASA and a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Catherine Brewer’s three-year NASA grant is for research pertaining to the absorption of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) from the water beneath the White Sands Test Facility. “NDMA is a probable human carcinogen,” Brewer said. “In the 1960s and ‘70s, NASA tested a series of rocket fuels for the Apollo program at the WSTF. After each test, the test engine and fuel lines had to be cleaned and flushed. The wastewater from those flushes was treated to destroy the fuel compounds and then emptied into the desert.”

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Deadline for Submissions: April 7, 2017

Call for Abstracts & Papers Details

The June 2017 conference includes a Call for Abstracts and Papers on topics related to the theme of the conference, Environmental Conditions of the Animas and San Juan Watersheds with Emphasis on Gold King Mine and Other Mine Waste Issues. Particularly relevant topics include the following:
     • Geology, minerology, ore bodies and natural sources of contamination
     • Analysis of Animas and San Juan watersheds as a result of Gold King
        Mine spill
     • Effects of acid mine drainage after more than a century of mining
     • Effects of historical mill-waste discharges
     • Effects of historical spill events
     • Effects of the Gold King Mine spill
     • Differentiating geologic and legacy mining and milling contaminants
        from Gold King Mine spill contaminants
     • Transport and fate of mining and milling contaminants in the Animas
        and San Juan watersheds
     • Contaminant uptake into the food web
     • Mining and milling contaminant impacts on surface water, sediment,
        groundwater, agriculture, livestock, wildlife, and humans
     • Long-term monitoring
     • Existing corrective measures to control mine seepage and hydraulic
     • Options for additional source control, spill prevention, and remediation
     • E. coli and other organisms in nutrients
     • Streamflow and water quality sensitivity to climate change
     • Groundwater and surface-water geochemistry and their interaction with
        the hyporheic zone

Visit the NM WRRI conference website at: for abstract guidelines. All abstracts must be submitted online using the provided abstract form.

Jason Herman, recipient of a FY 16 NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant, was born and raised in Albuquerque. He received a bachelor’s degree in environmental planning and design at UNM. Jason is currently entering his final semester of the dual degree master’s program at UNM, a collaboration between the Community and Regional Planning Program and the Water Resources Program. Jason is pictured here with his daughter, Isabell.

UNM Grad Student Reports on Albuquerque Residents’ Willingness to Accept Costs Associated with Potable Water Reuse
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Jason G. Herman, a graduate student in the Water Resources and Community & Regional Planning Programs at UNM, in collaboration with Caroline E. Scruggs, Assistant Professor of Planning, have completed a survey of Albuquerque, NM residents on topics related to their level of acceptance of costs that would be incurred by the construction and maintenance of systems to augment the city water supply by recovering potable water from wastewater. The survey also queried the participants regarding their awareness and understanding of the need for ensuring an adequate supply of water in the face of anticipated increasing population demand and possibly enduring drought and climate change conditions for New Mexico in the future. The survey results will be posted on the NM WRRI website and viewable by clicking here.

The relationship between the cost of a water reuse project and customer acceptance can be understood by seeking the customers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for the project in order to avoid future decreases in water supply reliability. This research uses previously determined cost estimates for water reuse facilities in Albuquerque and contingent valuation methods to estimate area resident’s WTP for water reuse. The work utilizes a “customer conversation” meeting-style setting to reveal the values and preferences of 50 Albuquerque area residents. Participants’ acceptance of potable reuse in general was found to be very high, with support for implementation of a potable reuse system in the Albuquerque area being slightly less popular. The study also found that at the lower cost levels studied, participants’ WTP was almost unanimous in approval, while, as expected, increasing levels of cost were less acceptable. The cost level that was acceptable to the participants approximately coincided with the estimated cost of a 25 million gallon per day indirect potable reuse facility in Albuquerque.

Hydrologic technician Ian Hewitt, who assists Kevin Boyko, takes measurements in an irrigation channel that provides water to an alfalfa field owned by Mesilla Valley farmer Willie Joe Koenig. A simple trapezoidal flume will be installed to measure flow during irrigation. Right: A graduated cylinder located at the Leyendecker Plant Science Center containing soil from an alfalfa field; the soil is going through a particle size analysis using a hydrometer method.

NM WRRI Graduate Student to Study Recharge in the Mesilla Valley
by Kevin Boyko, NM WRRI Graduate Assistant

Throughout the 2017 growing season, NM WRRI Graduate Assistant Kevin Boyko will monitor recharge of irrigated areas in the Mesilla Valley. He will select three fields of alfalfa and three pecan orchards containing varying soil types that are representative of the valley. A soil texture analysis will be conducted to delineate soil variability in each field. In order to determine the water input, total irrigation water entering the fields will be measured. From there, evapotranspiration (ET) will be measured using newly installed flux towers, which were made available from the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (TAAP), in collaboration with Dr. Salim Bawazir of NMSU's Department of Civil Engineering. Satellite remote sensing data from the Regional Evapotranspiration Estimation Model (REEM), which was produced at NMSU by Dr. Zohrab Samani, will also be used. Recharge will be verified using soil moisture probes installed throughout the vadose (unsaturated) zone to create a water infiltration profile. A piezometer will also be installed in each field to measure groundwater response.

Kevin Boyko is a master’s degree student in NMSU’s Water Science and Management program.

           Clockwise from upper left; Robert Sabie, Sofia Fatima, Ian Hewit, 
           and Fereshteh Soltani.

NM WRRI Staff Receive Degrees
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Four NM WRRI staff received degrees in December and we congratulate them for their diligence and academic accomplishments.

Sofia Fatima graduated with a master’s degree in computer science. Her thesis project was “Classification of Copepods in Sinkholes.” Sofia has been employed with the NM WRRI for nearly two years and has been primarily responsible for the institute’s website development.

Robert Sabie is a GIS Analyst at NM WRRI and just completed a master’s degree in applied geography. Bob’s master’s thesis was “Utility of Remote Sensing for Monitoring and Assessing Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation in Drylands.” He has been with the institute for over two years and was responsible for producing land cover maps for acequia-irrigated valleys in northern New Mexico and for managing a project focused on produced water in southeastern New Mexico.

Fereshteh Soltani’s work at NM WRRI includes developing the online version of the New Mexico Dynamic Statewide Water Budget model. She graduated with a degree in computer science. Fereshteh’s master’s degree project was "Mining Healthcare Data for Predicting Hospital Readmission."

Ian Hewitt received a master’s degree in water science and management. His research thesis was “A Comparison of Closed Chamber and Remote Sensing Estimates of Evapotranspiration (ET) in Northern New Mexico.” Ian is a research assistant at NM WRRI and is establishing instrumentation and data collection for ET field measurements in the Mesilla Valley.

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