New Mexico Water eNews


December 2018

NMSU Student Investigating Processes for Enhanced Removal of Superbugs and Their Genes from Wastewater
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Xiaoxiao Cheng is a graduate student working on her PhD in the NMSU Department of Civil Engineering. She is also a recipient of a 2018 NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant entitled: Developing New Strategies to Mitigate Antimicrobial Resistance for Safe Water Reuse.

Water resources management in the arid and semiarid southwestern United States has been a significant challenge due to limited fresh water supplies and chronic droughts. Water scarcity has a huge impact on food production since agriculture accounts for 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawals. Wastewater has long been identified as a potential water resource for agriculture. However, the massive use of antibiotics for human and veterinary purposes has unfortunately accelerated the evolution of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria, which has resulted in increasingly contaminated wastewater. It is now effectively an environmental reservoir of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) as well as antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs). Making matters worse, conventional wastewater treatment does not include a process to eliminate phages (virus particles that infect bacteria), which may therefore also contain ARGs. Moreover, the highest relative abundance of ARGs has been observed in the surviving bacteria in sludge effluent, indicating that conventional biological wastewater treatment processes may actually be promoting antibiotic resistance. The overall objective of this study is to develop new strategies to mitigate the ARB and ARGs in the effluent of wastewater treatment plants (WWTP), in order to minimize their dissemination into the environment and agricultural ecosystems. In this effort, Xiaoxiao is working in collaboration with her faculty advisor Dr. Yanyan Zhang, Assistant Professor, also of the Civil Engineering Department at NMSU.

Read entire article by clicking here.

The conference planning committee announces the “Call for Abstracts and Papers” on topics related to the theme of the June 2019 conference, Animas and San Juan Watersheds Conference: Successes and Challenges from Headwaters to Lake Powell. Topics for the upcoming conference include all water quality issues facing the Animas and San Juan Rivers watersheds, starting at the headwaters in the San Juan Mountains, flowing through the San Juan National Forest, past the mixed urban and agricultural valleys from Durango to Shiprock, and through desert canyons across the Navajo Nation into Lake Powell.

Relevant topics include the following:

  • Geology, minerology, ore bodies, and natural sources of heavy metal contamination in the Silverton Caldera
  • Effects of acid mine drainage from hard rock mining, effects of historical spill events including the Gold King Mine spill
  • Superfund cleanup process, and options for additional source control, spill prevention, and remediation
  • Forest health connection to watershed hydrology and river water quality
  • Snowpack, streamflow, and water quality sensitivity to climate change
  • Forest fire impacts, risk, and mitigation
  • Importance of wetland ecosystems to watershed resilience – fens, wet meadows, beaver dams, etc.
  • Impacts of surface water withdrawals
  • Drinking water and wastewater treatment
  • Emerging contaminants – pharmaceuticals, pesticides, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (FPAS)
  • Bacteria and nutrient pollution – sources and remediation
  • Agricultural water quality – needs and impacts
  • Stormwater
  • Ephemeral drainages – hydrology, geology, erosion
  • Impacts of oil and gas development, power plants, coal mining, uranium mining
  • Rangeland and soil health influence on hydrology and water quality
  • Ongoing, real-time and long-term monitoring
  • Monitoring of the aquatic food web as indicator of water quality
  • Groundwater and surface-water geochemistry and their interaction with the hyporheic zone
  • Sediment monitoring, load, and transport modeling
  • Ephemeral drainages – hydrology, geology, erosion
  • Source water protection and emergency response

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

TAAP affiliated researchers at the 2018 AWRA Summer Specialty Conference

Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program: Activities and Achievements in 2017 and 2018
by Ashley Page, NM WRRI Program Specialist

The Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (TAAP), federally created through the United States-Mexico Transboundary Act of 2006, designated four binational aquifers along the Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona borders with Mexico as research priorities. TAAP facilitates binational partnerships that produce shared knowledge and increased understanding of the Mesilla Basin, Hueco Bolson, San Pedro Aquifer, and Santa Cruz Aquifer. The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI), New Mexico State University (NMSU), New Mexico Tech (NMT), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) New Mexico Water Science Center collaboratively pursue New Mexico’s TAAP research efforts, which focus primarily on the Mesilla Basin.

NM WRRI maintained responsibility for New Mexico’s coordination efforts and submitted an update report to USGS in November that detailed TAAP related activities pursued during Reporting Year 2017-2018. Coordination efforts this year included collaboration and data exchange with USGS and counterparts in Mexico. In addition, NM WRRI supported four NMSU research projects titled: Remote Sensing to Develop Evapotranspiration (ET) Fluxes for the Mesilla Valley Aquifer (Bawazir, Samani, Solis, Boyko, Artola); Estimating Recharge of Alfalfa Fields by Measuring ET and Soil Moisture in the Semi-Arid Mesilla Valley (Boyko, Fernald, Bawazir, Samani); Geochemical and Isotopic Determination of Deep Groundwater as a Source of Discharge and Salinity to the Shallow Groundwater and Surface-Water Systems, Mesilla Basin, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico (Carroll, Robertson, Kubicki, Fernald); and Effects of changing water availability on riparian vegetation habitat and water use in the Mesilla Valley Basin Aquifer, New Mexico, US (Tellez, Boykin, Fernald). One project at NMT, Estimation of Regional Groundwater Recharge from Non-Irrigated Land in the Mesilla Basin, New Mexico (Cadol, Phillips, Xu), received support as well. This year’s TAAP research efforts increased understanding of the transboundary Mesilla Basin.

NM WRRI participated in the 2018 American Water Resources Association (AWRA) Summer Specialty Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Alexander Fernald and Avery Olshefski produced a presentation that detailed the history and purpose of TAAP, with an emphasis on its role in the Mesilla Basin. Aracely Tellez, Dr. Alexander Fernald, and Dr. Ken Boykin authored a presentation on the completion of their TAAP funded project that evaluated the effect of changing available water regimes on riparian vegetation in the Mesilla Basin. TAAP team members from Arizona, Texas, and Mexico also attended the conference and presented on their progress.

Naima Khan, who received her Master of Science and PhD in Water Science & Management at NMSU with Kenneth "KC" Carroll, can be seen inspecting experimental water samples in the lab where she does chemical analysis, including mass spectrometry to determine if ozone has reacted with organic contaminants in water. (Courtesy Photo)

NMSU Researcher, Collaborators Prolong Water Contaminant Treatment Using Ozone
by Melissa Rutter, New Mexico State University Marketing and Communications

Kenneth “KC” Carroll, an associate professor in New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and his collaborators have discovered an increase in the lifespan of ozone, giving more time for it to treat water both in groundwater and in wastewater treatment systems.

Some water contaminants are more difficult to treat, remove, or destroy and they require more reactive methods when traditional methods are inhibited, but these more reactive methods can be too rapid to transport significant distances in groundwater.

Some recalcitrant contaminants found in groundwater cannot be destroyed with traditional methods, so strong oxidants are needed.

Read entire article by clicking here.

Southern New Mexico high school students presented findings on their research dealing with the complexity of water as a socio-environmental issue in communities along the U.S.-Mexico border. The event took place at NMSU under the direction of doctoral candidate Margie Vela who spearheaded the project.

High School Students Present Water Research Projects
by Marcus Gay, NMSU Water Science & Management Student Program Coordinator

On December 6, NMSU Water Science & Management PhD candidate Margie Vela hosted the closing ceremony for “Water Conversations: Youth in Emerging Communities on the U.S.-Mexico Border.” The ceremony was part of the Water and People Project, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Over 100 area high school students attended the event. The program began with presentations by Associated Students of NMSU President Emerson Morrow and NMSU Interim Provost Dr. April Mason. Both Emerson and Dr. Mason noted the importance of the project as it looks at ways in which water access impacts rural and unincorporated communities, known as colonias, along the U.S.-Mexico border. The speakers commented on how impressed they were with the research being conducted by the students.

Twenty students from Canutillo High School who have been involved in youth participatory action research presented their findings about water issues in their community. Participants then learned about the Doña Ana Community College Water Technologies Program and the NMSU Water Science & Management Program. Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima spoke about the importance of water research and commented on how impressed he was with the high-school students’ public speaking skills. Margie Vela presented awards to the students for their work on what she described as a university-level research project. She said that the students’ research has strong implications for future water policy and research.

Margie Vela plans to graduate in May 2019 with a PhD in Water Science & Management. She is also the current Student Regent on the NMSU Board of Regents.

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