New Mexico Water eNews


January 2017

Meet the Researcher

Dr. Jesus (Chucho) Gomez-Velez, New Mexico Tech
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

After receiving a BS in civil engineering in 2005 from the National University of Colombia at Medellin, Jesus Gomez-Velez arrived at New Mexico Tech and completed two master’s degrees (in applied mathematics and in hydrology), and a PhD in earth sciences in 2013. He then served as a post-doctoral fellow for a couple of years with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Research Program, after which he returned to New Mexico Tech where he is now Assistant Professor of Hydrology.

Dr. Gomez-Velez focuses on groundwater-surface water interactions, hydrogeology, watershed hydrology, analytical and numerical modeling, and data mining and assimilation. He explains that he studies the movement of water, solutes, and energy through landscapes and rivers systems. Most of his current research focuses on the interactions between surface water and groundwater at multiple temporal and spatial scales, ranging from small river bedforms and reaches to continents. The work combines numerical modeling, data mining and assimilation, and a whole lot of field and laboratory experiments. Dr. Gomez-Velez teaches courses on fluid dynamics for earth scientists and the use of models to adequately represent and understand natural systems.

NM WRRI’s association with Dr. Gomez-Velez goes back to 2008 when he received an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant under the supervision of Professor John L. Wilson. In 2016, he received funding through the institute’s USGS 104b grant program for his project, New Mexico’s Mountain Sources of Water: A Mechanistic Approach to Understand Mountain Recharge and Its Implications for Local and Statewide Water Budgets. In May 2016, Dr. Gomez-Velez presented research on the role of sediment transport and groundwater-surface water interactions during an initial assessment of the Gold King Mine Spill at the Environmental Conditions of the Animas and San Juan Watersheds conference hosted by the NM WRRI. He also contributed to modeling and results synthesis on a National Science Foundation grant, CNH: Acequia Water Systems Linking Culture and Nature: Integrated Analysis of Community Resilience to Climate and Land-Use Changes. NM WRRI Director Sam Fernald was PI on the grant.

USGS Issues RFP for National Grant Program
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

The U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the National Institutes for Water Resources requests proposals for matching grants to support research on the topic of improving and enhancing the nation’s water supply, including the following specific areas of inquiry (levels of priority are not assigned, and the order of listing does not indicate the level of priority):
     • Evaluation of innovative approaches to water treatment, infrastructure
        design, retrofitting, maintenance, management, and replacement;
     • Exploration and advancement of our understanding of changes in the
        quantity and quality of water resources in response to a changing
        climate, population shifts, and land-use changes;
     • Development of methods for better estimation of water supply, both
        surface and groundwater, including estimation of the physical supply
        and of the economic supply of water;
     • Development and evaluation of processes and governance mechanisms
        for integrated surface/groundwater management; and
     • Evaluation and assessment of the effects of water conservation

This program provides university researchers with up to $250,000 for projects of 1 to 3 years in duration. It requires a 1:1 non-federal match. The intent of the program is to encourage projects with collaboration between universities and the USGS. Funds have not been appropriated for this program, but the USGS is proceeding with the proposal solicitation process in case an appropriation is received. The RFP at gives information on past year funding including award amounts and funding success rates.

New Mexico researchers must submit their preproposals to the NM WRRI by February 8, 2017 in order for the institute to submit preproposals to the National Grants Competition Preproposal Peer Review Panel by the February 15, 2017 deadline. Thirty preproposals will be invited to submit a full proposal to the National Grants Competition by June 1, 2017.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal, please contact NM WRRI Director Sam Fernald (575-646-4337; or Cathy Ortega Klett ( as soon as possible.

Photos show 3D printed components of Hydro-Weir at the NMSU RioRoboLab, Klipsch School of Electrical & Computer Engineering: from left, six-blade involute shape impeller; interlocking blade and hub assembly; and fully assembled turbine with impeller.

Students Develop Innovation in Hydropower Generation
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

NMSU students in the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, under the guidance of Associate Professor Dr. Nadipuram Prasad, recently completed a project entitled, Hydro-Weir: A technology for low-head hydropower generation. The project was funded by a NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant. The students were able to use 3D printing technology to show the feasibility of manufacturing functional hydropower harvester prototypes for laboratory testing. This was a first step toward full-scale prototype manufacturing.

The project aimed to develop a 200W hydropower harvester to harness energy from weir-flow systems. A weir is a barrier across a river designed to alter the flow characteristics, usually a horizontal barrier across the width of a river that pools water behind it while still allowing steady flow over the top. The objective of this project was to design and fabricate a laboratory scale prototype at the lowest cost. The size and shape had to conform to simulated weir-flow characteristics in the NMSU hydraulics laboratory. The students were successful at showing for the very first time that a scale model hydropower harvester prototype can be fabricated using 3D printing technology. Not only does this technology lower the generation cost, but it also minimizes environmental impacts of hydropower development.

Results from tests will be published in water power journals. In addition to being a successful Senior Design Capstone project in the undergraduate program of the Klipsch School, funding allowed Juan R. González, to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering. Juan worked with Dr. Prasad in preparing the final report, which is available by clicking here.

New Mexico Tech Graduate Student Contributes
to Statewide Water Assessment Initiative

by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Peter ReVelle, NM Tech master’s degree graduate student in hydrology, has played an important role in NM WRRI’s Statewide Water Assessment initiative. Peter is a member of the groundwater recharge study team that is developing a model that estimates diffuse groundwater recharge for the entire state of New Mexico. Diffuse recharge is the proportion of precipitation that infiltrates vertically through the soil and past the root zone to potentially contribute water to the groundwater system. In order to better quantify groundwater recharge in mountainous regions where a large proportion of the state’s recharge occurs, Peter developed a model that applies topographic-based adjustments to remote sensing products to provide an improved energy product suited for complex terrain that is being used in the model. According to groundwater recharge team member NM Tech Emeritus Professor Fred Phillips, “Peter is a great student and did an amazing job programming up the energy-balance part of the evapotranspiration model.”

Peter is scheduled to graduate with a master’s degree in the spring. His thesis research has focused on using remote sensing algorithms to determine the surface energy balance in mountain terrain environments to improve estimates of water losses from vegetation and soil evaporation, and to evaluate the effect of tree thinning on the amount of water lost.

Born in DeKalb, Illinois, Peter moved to Los Alamos, NM at the age of eight. He earned an undergraduate degree in environmental science with an option in hydrology at NM Tech in 2012. After graduation, he looks forward to pursuing a second master’s degree in geospatial Information science and technology.

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