New Mexico Water eNews


July 2020

Meet the Researcher

Antonio Lara, Associate Professor,
New Mexico State University

by Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

This month we are meeting Antonio Lara, who is currently an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at New Mexico State University (NMSU). Antonio avidly researches how to use clay pellets to effectively reduce uranium and heavy metal concentration levels in contaminated water sources. He first joined NMSU in 1991, and is currently teaching several classes including Chemistry 100 and 111, Environmental Chemistry, and occasionally an advanced graduate-level course titled Separations. According to Lara, his Chemistry 100 class is used to help students gain a passion for the sciences, have more confidence in their learning, and build upon fundamentals to help them succeed. He regularly challenges himself to develop new and exciting strategies to make chemistry more appealing to his students, and show them that anyone can excel when they put their mind to it.

Lara received his BS (1972) and MS (1977) from NMSU in Math Education, and Organic Chemistry, respectively. He returned to NMSU to complete his PhD in Analytical Chemistry in 1990. Once his education was completed, he had the opportunity to become a Postdoctoral Researcher at Michigan State University in 1991 working under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Pinnavaia, who was an experienced chemist who specialized in clay materials.

Read entire article by clicking here.

Kasandra Velarde working in the DeVeaux Lab.

New Mexico Tech Student Receives NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to Study Antibiotic Resistant Pathogens in Surface Water
by Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

Antibiotic resistance is an increasing concern around the world. The New Mexico Department of Health has determined four cases of antibiotic resistant infections with no known health-care source; the only commonality between all the patients are their counties of residence, which are connected by the Pecos River. Human activity can lead to the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) throughout natural reservoirs and surface waters. Surface waters, like the Pecos River, have become a topic of human health research due to the fact that these aquatic environments can expose resident bacteria to antibiotic resistant bacteria that could potentially transfer these determinants through horizontal gene transfer. The Pecos River is a potential source that harbors Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), an emerging group of antibiotic resistant pathogens. CREs are commonly observed in clinical settings but can be found in the environment. As of 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have begun tracking CREs. New Mexico has had a rapid increase in carbapenem-resistant infections, including pathogens carrying the VIM gene.

In June, Kasandra Velarde was awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant for her project entitled, Exploring surface water as the reservoir of CRE infecting patients in SE New Mexico. Under the direction of Dr. Linda DeVeaux, the study aims to provide insight in the dissemination of carbapenem-resistance genes in the Pecos River, specifically the VIM gene, which could potentially provide a correlation between clinical and environmental reservoirs.

Read entire article by clicking here.

Hengameh Bayat using the high-pressure reactor to produce biofuel and char for energy and wastewater treatment applications.

NMSU Student Receives NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to Study Food-Waste-to-Biofuel Byproduct for Wastewater Treatment
by Marcus Gay, NM WRRI Student Program Coordinator

As the world’s population grows larger, the need for clean water, food, and energy is rising. Food production requires energy, and accounts for a large portion of global freshwater consumption. Due to the amount of energy and freshwater involved in food production, food waste is particularly important to resource management. Currently, the common practice of landfilling wet food waste leads to methane, carbon dioxide, and liquid waste that contaminates soil, groundwater, and rivers. Fortunately, food waste is a readily available biowaste resource. The use of food waste for biofuel production and resource recovery would not only reduce reliance on fossil fuels, but it would also help solve water scarcity issues and environmental challenges.

In addition to the advantages of using food waste as a feedstock for biofuel production, char (a byproduct derived from the food-waste-to-biofuel conversion), can be used to adsorb heavy metals in waste water treatment. Commercial adsorbents are often not cost effective. Using food waste char instead of commercial adsorbents could improve local water quality, and manage local food waste while generating an alternative source of energy.

In 2019, Hengameh Bayat, was awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to study food waste conversion to biofuel, and evaluate the feasibility of using treated char as an adsorbent material for wastewater treatment. The project is titled, Wastewater Treatment Using Food Waste Char Obtained from Hydrothermal Liquefaction as a Low-Cost Adsorbent Material. Bayat, a PhD student at New Mexico State University’s Chemical and Materials Engineering department, worked on this project under the guidance of her faculty advisor, Dr. Catherine E. Brewer.

Read entire article by clicking here.

Storage tanks for produced water and oil located at a conventional oil well in Eddy County.

NMSU and NM WRRI Researchers Developing a Framework for Hybrid Modeling Analysis of Produced Water Impacts in New Mexico
by Mark Sheely, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Each month NM WRRI is featuring an eNews article describing an individual research focus of the ongoing New Mexico Universities Produced Water Synthesis Project (NMUPWSP), a state-funded project with investigators from NMSU, UNM, NMT, and NM WRRI. This month we are featuring research being performed by New Mexico State University Research Associate Professor Saeed Langarudi, NM WRRI Research Scientist Robert Sabie, and NM WRRI Director Sam Fernald to develop a conceptual framework for a hybrid, multi-method dynamic simulation analysis of the impact of produced water on the water budgets and overall viability of local communities in New Mexico.

As a potential alternative water source, produced water presents unique opportunities and challenges that need to be understood. More specifically, it is important to understand how produced water relates to regional water budgets and the future viability of New Mexico’s local communities. Nevertheless, produced water is a multifaceted phenomenon with complex hydrologic, social, economic, and environmental implications. To better understand such implications, the research project entitled, Development of a multi-method dynamic spatial simulation model: exploring opportunities for produced water reuse seeks to develop sophisticated analytical and computational tools that take such complexities into account.

Read entire article by clicking here.

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