New Mexico Water eNews


August 2018

NM WRRI student grant recipient Chathurika Bandara working on the pilot scale FO-RO (forward osmosis – reverse osmosis) system. Photo by Dr. Nirmalakhandan

NMSU Grad Student Receives NM WRRI Grant to Study Potable Water Recovery Through Combined Algal and Hybrid Osmotic Membrane Processes
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Galathara Lekamlage Chathurika Lakshani Bandara is a PhD graduate student in the NMSU Civil Engineering Department. In conjunction with her faculty sponsors in the same department, Drs. Nagamany Nirmalkhandan and Pei Xu, Chathurika is currently making use of an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant to study the feasibility of recovering potable-quality water from wastewater through an innovative combination of three methodologies.

First, the energy of sunlight is used to cultivate algae in the wastewater, which entraps and removes organic contaminants and nutrients in the wastewater by processes such as adsorption and ingestion/digestion transformations. Next, the wastewater is allowed to partially diffuse through a membrane by forward osmosis (FO). This is the familiar process by which plants pump water from the ground, for example. The idea here is to separate the freshwater from the contaminated wastewater by a membrane that is permeable to water molecules. Because of the relative lack of salt, and therefore higher concentration of water molecules in the wastewater, there is a net flow of water into the provided relatively salty water (appropriately called the "draw" solution; in real-life applications this might be sea water, for example). Finally, the now water-diluted draw water is subjected to reverse osmosis (RO), wherein externally provided hydraulic pressure on the draw solution overcomes osmotic pressure and forces water in the reverse direction, across a second membrane into another reservoir of relatively salt-free "product water". The goal of the study is to demonstrate the technical feasibility of this integrated algal-based wastewater treatment coupled with the forward and reverse (FO-RO) osmosis steps. A bench-scale FO-RO system of this type has been tested for over a year, and has produced product water meeting primary and secondary drinking water standards. Next, a pilot-scale system will be deployed to assess performance under field conditions.

Read entire article by clicking here.

Meet the Researcher

Daniel Cadol, New Mexico Tech
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

New Mexico Tech Associate Professor Daniel Cadol joined the faculty in the Earth and Environmental Science Department in 2012. He grew up in Jackson, Wyoming, before going to Walla Walla, Washington to attend Whitman College, receiving a BA cum laude in geology. Cadol then did his graduate studies at Colorado State University, earning his MS studying invasive vegetation and channel change in Canyon de Chelly, AZ, and his PhD studying large woody debris dynamics in the streams of Costa Rica. Following graduation, he taught for a year at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, followed by a stint at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science studying tidal marsh morphodynamics before coming to New Mexico.

Dr. Cadol is a hydrologist with research interests at the intersection between ecosystems and the hydrological cycle. This includes the study of the hydraulic effects of vegetation in flow, sedimentation and scour around vegetation, controls on the rate and temporal distribution of water extraction and use by plants by means of evapotranspiration, and the transport and fate of vegetative material such as large woody debris and post-fire debris within the fluvial network. Cadol indicates that it is easy to observe that the distribution of vegetation is controlled largely by the distribution and flow of water; plants need water to live. Less obvious, but equally fascinating, are the ways that vegetation turns around and alters the distribution and flow of water. The resultant feedback mechanisms between the two, as vegetation alters its environment and either limits or promotes its own opportunities for expansion, can lead to the emergence of complex, and sometimes counterintuitive, behaviors and landforms. This work can help to make the most of the limited water available in semi-arid regions, and can provide a fresh perspective on habitats, sustainability, and the potential for conservation.

For the past two years, Cadol has worked on the NM WRRI Statewide Water Assessment project. He and his students, in collaboration with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, are working to model the soil moisture balance statewide at a fine enough spatial (250 m) and temporal (daily) scale to obtain meaningful estimates of groundwater recharge – the water that percolates down below the rooting zone and eventually to the underlying aquifers. Using widely available remote sensing products to parameterize soils, precipitation, and evaporative demand, they have built a model they call the Python Recharge Assessment for New Mexico Aquifers (PyRANA). This model enables aquifer recharge estimation in the un-irrigated mountains and rangelands of New Mexico. This is a key parameter for water managers, since recharge in New Mexico largely defines a limit for sustainable groundwater use. It represents the natural means of replenishing the groundwater that sustains many New Mexico communities, especially through drought. Estimates of this difficult to measure recharge will help the Statewide Water Assessment close the water balance with the highest quality data available.

Amanda Otieno is using a turbidity meter to measure the Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTUS) in the lower Jaramillo Creek, Valles Caldera National Preserve in June 2016

Former NM WRRI Student Grant Recipient Graduates, Accepts Employment in New Mexico, and Co-authors Paper
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Amanda Otieno received a master’s degree from the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program in December 2017. In 2017, she was awarded an NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant for a study on the effects of the 2011 Las Conchas fire on soil chemistry (see July 2017 eNews), under the advisement of Dr. Rebecca Bixby of UNM’s Department of Biology. Amanda is now working for a precious metals company in Rio Rancho as a chemist.

Amanda is a co-author on a recently published paper entitled, Metal Reactivity in Laboratory Burned Wood from a Watershed Affected by Wildfires. The paper was published in 2018 in Environmental Science and Technology (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2018, 52, 8115-8123). Authors include Asifur Rahman, Eliane El Hayek, Johanna M. Blake, Rebecca J. Bixby, Abdul-Mehdi Ali, Michael Spilde, Amanda A. Otieno, Keely Miltenberger, Cyrena Ridgeway, Kateryna Artyushkova, Viorel Atudorei, and José M. Cerrato. Both Asifur Rahman and José Cerrato also have received funding through the NM WRRI.

The paper describes how wildfires, such as the Las Conchas fire, have many lingering effects on local water quality, primarily due to the leaching of metals from burned soils and wood ash. The main objective of the reported study was to investigate the interfacial processes affecting wood ash reactions with water by integrating laboratory experiments, spectroscopy, microscopy, and aqueous chemistry methods. The release of metals and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) was assessed in batch experiments reacting laboratory burned wood ash with water. Additional experiments were conducted to investigate sorption processes that affect ash−metal interactions.

Read entire article by clicking here.

New Mexico Faculty Projects Selected to Receive Funding
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

The Bureau of Reclamation selected 16 projects nationwide to receive $3.5 million for desalination and water purification research (DWRP). The DWRP Program works with Reclamation researchers and partners to develop more innovative, cost-effective, and technologically efficient ways to desalinate water. One laboratory project and two pilot-scale projects from New Mexico will receive research funding.

“Desalination is an increasingly important source of water for Western communities,” Commissioner Burman said. “Investing in innovative technologies to make desalination more affordable and energy-efficient will help many communities across the United States.”

A laboratory project will be led by NMSU Dr. Abdessattar Abdelkefi, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Reza Foudazi, Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering, and Dr. Samah Ben Ayed, Department of Engineering Technology & Surveying Engineering: “Portable wind turbines for potable water through electrodialysis treatment” ($150,000).

Two pilot-scale projects were selected including a NM Tech project, “Geothermal membrane distillation for large-scale use,” which will be led by Dr. Frank Huang, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering ($200,000). NMSU will receive $399,353 for a project entitled, “Assessment and implementation framework for transboundary brackish groundwater desalination in south-central New Mexico.” The principal investigators on this project include Drs. J. Phillip King and Pei Xu, both from the Department of Civil Engineering, Dr. K.C. Carroll, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Sam Fernald, NM WRRI.

Congratulations to everyone involved in these projects.

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