New Mexico Water eNews


October 2017

         El Paso Water Utilities Director and CEO John Balliew addressed participants at
         the workshop luncheon. Balliew talked about the history of desalination efforts
         in El Paso and the role of desalination in meeting the city’s future water demands.

NM WRRI Hosts Workshop on Desalination Efforts
in the Mesilla Basin

by Avery Olshefski, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

New Mexico State University and the Bureau of Reclamation are in the second year of a five-year cooperative agreement that seeks to increase scientific knowledge and research expertise in the area of characterization, treatment, and use of alternative waters in New Mexico and the western U.S. The agreement is currently supporting nine NMSU research projects involving impaired water. The agreement also supports an annual community learning meeting with the goal of reaching out to the broader community potentially impacted by the research in order to elicit stakeholder input.

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  July 2017

  Household Water Quality in Rural Southern New Mexico
A Three-Year Study

  WRRI Miscellaneous Report No. 33
  Erin M. Ward
  Christopher P. Brown
  Hugo L. Rojas

Submitted by
New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute

Submitted by
Office of Border Health, New Mexico Department of Health
New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute
New Mexico State University
MSC 3167, P.O. Box 30001
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003-8001

(575) 646-4337 email:

NM WRRI Completes 3-Year Study of Groundwater Quality in New Mexico’s Border Aquifers
by Erin Ward, NM WRRI Senior Project Manager

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) recently completed a three-year study of groundwater quality in the state’s southern border aquifers with funding from the Border Office of the New Mexico Department of Health. The study identified unhealthy levels of contaminants in one of every five wells tested. Laboratory testing was conducted for concentrations of arsenic, uranium, fluoride, nitrates and E. coli. Of the 521 individual wells tested, 108 samples exceeded the federal and state health standards for one or more of the contaminants.

“The good news is that most well water we tested fell within the healthy zone,” said NM WRRI’s project manager, Erin Ward. “The bad news: We found elevated contaminants in more wells than we anticipated.”

For most well owners with elevated contaminants, Ward said, the project staff at NM WRRI was able to offer a solution to their water quality problem. “Very often, an under-the-sink filter would do the trick.”

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  NMSU undergraduate Stephanie Richins presented her research project at NM WRRI’s 2016
  Annual New Mexico Water Conference.

NMSU Undergraduate Student Completes Study on Reducing Toxicity of Arsenic in Water
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Arsenic is known to be present in many brackish groundwater sources in New Mexico. It also seeps into the water table from sites where copper and other heavy metal mining has taken place. Such mines use arsenic during the smelting process, and some of that arsenic has found its way into the environment. Arsenic-contaminated water poses a significance health risk, as the arsenic can produce acute symptoms of poisoning, and, in addition, it acts as a carcinogen.

The most common inorganic species of arsenic in water are Arsenic III, known as arsenite, and the more oxidized form Arsenic V, known as arsenate. It turns out that arsenite is about sixty times more toxic than arsenate, which raises the question of whether it is feasible to lower the toxicity of arsenic-contaminated water by chemical conversion of arsenite to arsenate. Other approaches to mitigating the contamination problem have included the use of separation of chemical species by membranes, coagulation and flocculation, ion-exchange techniques, and selective adsorption.

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NM WRRI Welcomes New Staff Member
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Avery Olshefski joined the NM WRRI this month as Program Coordinator and will work primarily on two projects, the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Program (TAAP) and the NMSU-Reclamation Cooperative Agreement on the development and use of alternative water supplies.

Avery brings a strong academic background to the position, having received a master’s degree in water resources from the University of New Mexico with an emphasis on policy and management, and a Cum Laude BA degree, in international affairs with an emphasis on environmental resources from George Washington University. Avery has also studied in Beijing, China; Christchurch, New Zealand; and Cairns, Australia. In 2009, Avery worked as an intern for Senator Mark L. Pryor.

Being an outdoor enthusiast, Avery enjoys guiding clients down class II-IV rapids of the Rio Grande and class II-III section of the Rio Chama. She also worked as a ski patrol supervisor at Ski Santa Fe from 2012 until this spring.

“I am very excited to be joining the NM WRRI team and to begin my career in water resources with such an impressive group of professionals. I’m really looking forward to exploring southern New Mexico and having some great adventures in this part of our wonderful state.”

From left to right: Dr. Sam Fernald, Melakeneh Gedefaw, Befekadu Habteyes, Chia-Hsing “Peter” Tsai, Jesslyn Ratliff, Logan Bridges, Justin Milavec, and Dr. KC Carroll

Water Science & Management Program Participates in Ag Day NMSU Homecoming Event
by Jesslyn Ratliff, NM WRRI Program Specialist & WSM Student Program Coordinator

Students, staff, and faculty from the Water Science & Management (WSM) Graduate Program participated in AGriculture Day on Saturday, October 28. The event was held as part of NMSU Homecoming activities and took place across the street from Aggie Memorial Stadium. It was hosted by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, NMSU College of Agricultural Consumer and Environmental Science, and presented by the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau. The purpose of the event was to celebrate New Mexico’s agriculture community.

WSM staff and students distributed program brochures and produced a water podcast that engaged public input about water use. Candy was handed out to the many trick-or-treaters that stopped by the booth.

For more information about the WSM graduate program, click here or call Jesslyn Ratliff at (575) 646-1194.

From left to right: Yining Bai, Sarah Sayles, Jesslyn Ratliff, Melakeneh Gedefaw, Befekadu Habteyes, and Dr. KC Carroll
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