New Mexico Water eNews


January 2018

Meet the Researcher

Caroline Scruggs, University of New Mexico
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Caroline Scruggs is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Planning at the University of New Mexico. She has BS and MS degrees in environmental engineering from Virginia Tech, and she worked as a consulting engineer for ten years before a particular project inspired her to go back to grad school. Scruggs says, “At the time, I was working on a large project in Las Vegas, Nevada, about how best to convey wastewater from the area’s three largest wastewater treatment plants into Lake Mead, which is the drinking water source for Las Vegas and downstream communities. This project included fascinating and important questions for me related to both potable water reuse and the effects of trace contaminants in wastewater on the environment and public health.” In 2012, she earned an interdisciplinary environment and resources PhD from Stanford University. She describes her dissertation as “focused on chemicals policy and smarter management of hazardous chemicals – thinking about the chemicals in consumer products that make their way into wastewater, the environment, drinking water, and living things.”

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NMSU PhD Student Studies Contaminant Movement
in the Unsaturated Zone

by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

William Weaver, doctoral candidate in NMSU’s Department of Civil Engineering, received a 2017 NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to study the mobility of contaminants in the unsaturated zone, the portion of the subsurface above the groundwater table. Working with his faculty advisor, Dr. Lambis Papelis, also of the Department of Civil Engineering, Weaver looked at strontium, a highly reactive chemical element, and chromate, a carcinogen known for its mobility in the environment, to investigate their movement in porous media following processes such as evaporation, rainfall, and irrigation.

Project findings (available by clicking here) can be used by those involved in remediating contaminated sites to help them better understand the migration of contaminants in the unsaturated zone and the potential for contamination to spread away from the contaminated site.

Weaver indicated that the student research grant provided him with funding to travel and conduct research on his experimental sample at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) at Stanford University. He said, “A personal highlight from conducting the study was a significantly positive experience performing research at Stanford University.” The grant also enabled him to purchase critical research equipment and supplies, and to travel to the American Geophysical Union Conference to present his project.

Having earned a BS in chemistry from South Carolina State University, an MS in agronomy from Iowa State University, and an MS in environmental engineering from NMSU, Weaver plans to graduate in May 2018 with a PhD in civil engineering. Concerning his future plans, he said he wants to continue his career in a water-related field, working initially perhaps as a postdoctoral researcher and potentially as a faculty member of a research organization.

NM WRRI Program Coordinator, Avery Olshefski (second from right) participated in a breakout group at the New Mexico Water Dialogue 24th Annual Meeting.

New Mexico Water Dialogue 24th Annual Meeting
by Avery Olshefski, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

The New Mexico Water Dialogue annual meetings bring professionals and the public together to discuss important water-related issues and to hear distinguished speakers’ perspectives on those topics. This year’s annual meeting was held at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM on January 11, 2018.

The topic of the meeting was “Balancing Our Water Needs: Adjudication and Alternatives,” which evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of adjudications within the context of managing New Mexico’s water resources. The keynote speaker, Professor Reed Benson from UNM School of Law, touched on the purposes of adjudications and how they correlate with water management in New Mexico. He highlighted the fact that adjudications are done on a scale of decades, not years, and that alternatives to the adjudication process could benefit water management strategies for NM. On the other hand, Arianne Singer, Deputy General Counsel for the Office of the State Engineer, spoke about the benefits of adjudicating tribal claims because tribes and pueblos represent the greatest uncertainty for New Mexico’s water obligations. She also pointed out an example of how settling Navajo Nation tribal claims in the northwest corner of the state led to much-needed infrastructure and economic benefits for the region.

Following the talks, there was a panel discussion about water management alternatives for the Lower Rio Grande and Clayton County, which were covered by Dr. Phil King and Dr. Kate Zeigler, respectively. After lunch, the attendees participated in breakout sessions that covered 11 topics that ranged from “Instream Flow and Wildlife” to “Shortage Sharing Strategies.” The annual meeting concluded with Lucia Sanchez, Interstate Stream Commission, and Kelsey Rader, New Mexico First, giving an update on the State Water Planning Town Hall that was held in December 2017.

NM WRRI staff from left: Blane Sanchez, Sam Fernald, Catherine Ortega Klett, Jesslyn Ratliff, and Fernando Herrera.

NM WRRI Staff Attends AgFest
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Staff from NM WRRI took part in the annual AgFest expo in Santa Fe on January 23. The event, hosted by the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, featured many exhibits that provide legislators and other visitors with program information. Institute staff prepared slides that were shown on large screen monitors featuring recent activities including reports, conferences, and research projects conducted by faculty and students from around the state. NM WRRI Program Specialist and Water Science & Management (WSM) Program Coordinator Jesslyn Ratliff provided information on NMSU’s WSM graduate student program opportunities. The event attracted over a thousand participants.

iEMSs Congress 2018, Fort-Collins: A Session on Socio-Ecological Modeling of the Rio Grande/Bravo Basin

The 9th International Congress on Environmental Modeling & Software will be hosted at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, on June 24-28, 2018. This year, the theme is focused on Sustainable Food-Energy-Water Systems. The Call for abstracts is now open.

Session E4 “Methods and Approaches to Modelling Socio-Ecological Dynamics of the Rio Grande/Bravo Basin”, co-organized by social and environmental scientists from the University of Oklahoma and Oregon State University, will provide a forum for the international Rio Grande/Bravo Basin research community to present their current modeling efforts and engage in a discussion about theoretical and methodological findings that can help to solve complex environmental and social issues within the basin.

The abstract submission deadline is February 15, 2018 (extended). For abstract guidelines, visit the iEMSs 2018 congress website at: All abstracts (250 words maximum) must be submitted online using the provided abstract form.

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