New Mexico Water eNews


November 2018

NMSU Student Studying Membrane Distillation
with Photocatalysis for Use in Alternative and Brackish Water Restoration

by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Lin Chen is a graduate student in the NMSU Department of Civil Engineering, and he is working on his PhD in environmental engineering. He is also a recipient of a 2018 NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant entitled, "Water Reuse and Desalination with Self-cleaning Photocatalytic Membrane Distillation."

As an arid region in the United States, New Mexico faces a significant challenge in water resources management due to increasing fresh water demand, economic growth, and chronic droughts. A potential solution to address the water challenge is to develop a highly functional desalination technology, driven by renewable energy, to treat alternative waters (e.g., wastewater, brackish water, etc.). Membrane distillation (MD) is an emerging thermal-driven membrane separation process that utilizes low-grade heat (e.g., solar thermal) for vapor transport. Photocatalysis is another attractive emerging technology that uses solar irradiation to decompose organic pollutants and inactivate microbes. By integrating photocatalysis with MD (PMD), the hybrid membrane can fully utilize solar irradiation to stimulate photocatalytic degradation of organic contaminants in wastewater as well as to heat the feed solution for the MD process. Lin and his faculty advisor
Dr. Pei Xu, Associate Professor of the Civil Engineering Department at NMSU, are working together on the development and analysis of high performance PMD membranes.

Read entire article by clicking here.

NMT Hydrology Student Studying Leaching at Old Uranium Mine Sites
by Thomas Guengerich, NM Tech Office of Communication and Marketing

SOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Tech doctoral student Alexandra Pearce is using an NM WRRI grant this year to study the potential for revamped uranium mining in northwest New Mexico.

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, located at New Mexico State University, funded Pearce with a $6,000 grant. She is gathering and examining samples collected from deposits in the Grants Uranium District, which stretches from east of Laguna to west of Gallup. The district, though dormant since 2002, remains seventh in the world in uranium production. It supplied over a third of the United States’ uranium over 50 years, generating $4.7 billion in revenue.

“This grant has been an immense help because it should tide me over to cover all the analyses I have to do,” she said. “The NM WRRI funding covers a big part of the electron microprobe, leaching tests, and sundry other tests. This grant was a God-send. I am really grateful because I was wondering how I was going to fund this project.”

Pearce had previously received competitive scholarships and grants from N.M. EPSCoR, the N.M. Geological Society, and SRK Consulting.

Read entire article by clicking here.

Camera system installed on NMSU PSL aircraft (top); Robert Sabie and Kevin Boyko measuring irradiance and radiant exitance for camera calibration (bottom).

New Camera System for Measuring Evapotranspiration
by Robert Sabie, Jr., NM WRRI Program Manager

As part of the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Coordinated Agricultural Project, “Diversifying the Water Portfolio for Agriculture in the Rio Grande Basin,” NM WRRI is collaborating with New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory to conduct flights over agricultural areas to measure evapotranspiration. The specific research goal for this project is to find ways to improve irrigation scheduling and efficiency by better understanding how water is evaporated and transpired throughout the growing season.

A new suite of cameras, capable of measuring energy in spectral and thermal wavelengths, are mounted on a crewed aircraft, and a high-precision GPS unit provides location information for each image for the creation of high-spatial resolution orthomosaic maps. The information from the maps is used in two different approaches for measuring evapotranspiration: a crop coefficient-based approach and an energy balance approach. Several satellite-based evapotranspiration products are already available, but often do not have the temporal or spatial resolution needed to make decisions at a field-scale. Having the cameras on an airplane provides the ability for on-demand imagery at a high-spatial resolution.

The first step in using this research tool is to examine camera response to reflected solar radiation. More than a thousand images were captured over the NMSU Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center during the first 45-minute flight on October 26, 2018. Over the next few months the images will be analyzed and compared to ground-based measurements. This will help establish the processing steps necessary to convert images from raw values into measurable values. During the 2019 growing season, imagery will be collected on a regular basis over several field study sites in the Mesilla Valley; Weslaco, Texas; and Bushland, Texas. The study sites are in agricultural fields representing the diverse crops typically grown within the Rio Grande Basin. Results of the initial flight calibration are expected in early 2019.

Meet the Researcher

Stacy Timmons, New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources/New Mexico Tech
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Stacy Timmons, hydrogeologist at New Mexico Tech, grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she completed a BS in geology from the University of Cincinnati. Seeking more exciting geology, she went west for an MS in geology from Oregon State University.

After a few years of different geology-related jobs, Stacy began her career at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources in 2004, working on field data collection, data management, and mapping for different geologic and groundwater projects. Working at the Bureau of Geology, she has been involved with several large-scale, long-term hydrogeologic studies in geologically diverse locations around New Mexico including the San Agustin Plains, Magdalena, Tularosa Basin, Truth or Consequences Hot Springs District, La Cienega wetlands, and southern Sacramento Mountains.

In 2014, Stacy began managing the Aquifer Mapping Program, which includes a productive team of seven staff and several students. With the management role, Stacy has been securing project funding, writing and editing reports, interpreting and managing data, and doing very little field work. She’s been working with NM WRRI’s Statewide Water Assessment since it began five years ago, helping to get the Groundwater Level and Storage Change project incorporated into the overall statewide effort.

One project she is currently working on is the Collaborative Groundwater Monitoring Network, which provides groundwater level monitoring for wells all around the state, particularly focusing on rural public water supply systems. With a possible future of a hotter and drier New Mexico, this project (funded by the Healy Foundation) will help to fill data gaps where there is little to no information on local aquifers, and the groundwater trends over time. Stacy’s group is making these data available on an online interactive map. For more information on The Collaborative Groundwater Monitoring Network click here.

Aside from work and research, Stacy enjoys garden and home remodeling projects with her husband, playing board games with her two kids, trail running, rafting, and traveling.

  November 2018


  WRRI Technical Completion Report No. 379
  José M. Cerrato
  Asifur Rahman


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 Publishes Report on the Effect of Wildfire Ash
on Water Quality

by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

University of New Mexico Department of Civil Engineering Assistant Professor, José M. Cerrato, and his former graduate research assistant, Asifur Rahman, have completed an institute funded research project entitled, Effect of Wildfire Ash on Water Quality. Project results provide insight about the potential effects on water quality of metals transported by wood ash. Their findings have important implications for post-fire recover and response strategies. NM WRRI Completion Report #379 is available online via the NM WRRI website.

Research results from the project have also been published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2018, 52, 8115-8123). Asifur Rahman is first author on the paper entitled, “Metal Reactivity in Laboratory Burned Wood from a Watershed Affected by Wildfires.”

Asifur was supported on the project while studying for his master’s (MS) degree at UNM in the Department of Civil Engineering. He received his MS in May 2018, and he is now conducting PhD studies at Virginia Tech.

NMSU graduate student Rocio Castillo presented a poster at the Society of Hispanic Engineers 2018 National Convention in November 2018.

NMSU Students Present Posters on Solar Still Project
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

Earlier this month, NMSU graduate student Rocio Castillo presented a research poster at the Society of Hispanic Engineers 2018 National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The research on which the poster is based is partially funded by a cooperative agreement between NMSU and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The agreement aims to increase scientific knowledge and research expertise in the treatment and use of alternative waters. NM WRRI manages the cooperative agreement.

The poster titled “Analysis of a Solar Still Modified with Linear Fresnel Lens for Increased Solar Input” was authored by Castillo and Dr. Young Ho Park, both from NMSU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Delia Valles from NMSU’s Department of Industrial Engineering, and Dr. Sarada Kuravi, also from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Ms. Castillo will graduate with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering this semester.

Related posters on the solar still project were also presented at two other local conferences in October. Mechanical engineering doctoral student
Lei Mu presented a poster at NM WRRI’s annual water conference, and Capstone undergraduate students (senior-level students performing culminating challenge projects), also in the mechanical engineering department, presented a poster at NMSU’s Alliance for Minority Participation Conference.

NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant Recipient Completes PhD
by Catherine Ortega Klett, NM WRRI Program Manager

During FY 2017, NMSU graduate student William Weaver received a student water research grant from NM WRRI to assist in funding his doctoral research project. He worked under the advisement of Dr. Lambis Papelis of the Department of Civil Engineering. William recently completed all requirements to earn a PhD in civil (environmental) engineering at NMSU. His dissertation was titled, "Breakthrough and Remobilization Dynamics of Strontium and Chromate Following Drainage-Induced Immobilization and Evaporation-Induced Immobilization in Porous Media.” William recently said he plans to begin a stimulating career at an international research institution and teach at a university. He added, “The student research grant I received from the NM WRRI significantly helped me complete my PhD degree by funding quantitative analysis costs and the research and travel costs to conduct part of my doctoral research project at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL).”

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