New Mexico Water eNews


July 2016

Produced water web-mapping application interface

Completion of Produced Water Project in Southeast
New Mexico

by Robert Sabie, Jr., Research Assistant

The New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute collaborators recently completed the project titled, “The Feasibility of Utilizing Produced Water to Improve Drinking Water Supply in Southeastern New Mexico.” This project focused on Eddy and Lea Counties and was sponsored by the New Mexico Environment Department’s Drinking Water Bureau. Funding was made available from the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund Set Aside Grant for the purposes of protecting sources of public drinking water supply. Produced water use fits into this framework because it is important to ensure that untreated produced water does not contaminate drinking water supplies and because treated produced water that is substituted for fresh groundwater could potentially extend the life of drinking water sources.

During oil and gas production, produced water is extracted as a byproduct along with oil and gas at a ratio around 7:1 water to oil (Sullivan-Graham, 2015). We aggregated produced water volume data reported to the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (NM OCD, 2016) and estimated over 776 million barrels (100,000 acre-feet) of water is produced annually from oil and gas wells in Lea and Eddy Counties. While some oil and gas companies are beginning to reuse produced water to offset a portion of the 40,000 to 60,000 barrels of water needed to complete an individual well, the majority of produced water is managed as waste, and thus disposed of in salt-water injection wells.

Several other opportunities for produced water reuse exist; however, decision-makers and stakeholders require additional information before reuse can be implemented outside of the oil and gas industry. The goal and result of this project addresses this information need. The completed work includes three rounds of community and stakeholder meetings in Eddy and Lea Counties that helped identify key questions and knowledge gaps. As a result of this work, several information products are now available. An updated produced water quality database includes an additional 4,000 water quality sample points from oil and gas wells. A geochemical analysis examined the produced water compositional variability by geologic formation in the western half of the Permian Basin. Produced water quality and volume data are now available through an interactive web-map application (figure above).

Regulatory uncertainty was clarified through a review of regulations surrounding produced water in collaboration with the New Mexico Environment Department, Oil Conservation Division, and Office of the State Engineer. Current and emerging treatment technologies are outlined in a section of the final report that lists the technology status, applications, expected quality, removal efficiencies, infrastructure, energy use, chemical demand, and costs. Potential beneficial uses, with a focus on agriculture, are documented in another part of the report that used a decision-support tool to run four scenarios to illustrate the main considerations of produced water reuse. All of this information, which is publically available, will help define specific opportunities for produced water reuse in the future.

To view the produced water database click here.

Click here to view the produced water page that includes individual project reports, web-mapping applications, and community meeting presentations.

Project collaborators included: Martha Cather, Cristobal Gallegos, and Dongyi Chen from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; KC Carrol, Pei Xu, Robert Flynn, Binod Chaudhary, Spencer Willman, Guanyu Ma, Kwabena Sarpong, Mengistu Geza, and Aracely Tellez from New Mexico State University; Jeri Sullivan Graham from Los Alamos National Laboratory; and Sam Fernald and Robert Sabie, Jr. from New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute.

NM OCD. 2016. COCWCVolumes. 

Sullivan Graham, E.J., A.C. Jakle, and F.D. Martin. 2015. Reuse of oil and gas produced water in southeastern New Mexico: resource assessment, treatment processes, and policy. Water International 40:5-6 809-823.

FY 17 NM WRRI Student Water Research Grant Program
by Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

Proposals due September 12, 2016, 5:00 p.m.

Students enrolled full-time in a four-year degree college program at a New Mexico educational institution are eligible for water-related research grants of up to $6,000.

Projects will start October 1, 2016.

For more information and proposal guidelines click here.

  July 2016

  Self-Sustaining Produced Water Treatment for Concurrent
  Renewable Energy Production, Desalination and Organic Removal

  WRRI Miscellaneous Report No. 373
  Pei Xu
  Zachary Stoll

Schematic of the microbial capacitive deionization cell (MCDC)


   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:


Completion of Final Report on Economical Remediation
of Produced Water

by Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

This month marks the publication of a final report on produced-water remediation research that was supported in part by NM WRRI through federal funding received by the institute from the U.S. Geological Survey. It was carried out by Associate Professor Pei Xu and Zachary Stoll, PhD, both of the NMSU Department of Civil Engineering. Zachary was a graduate student during the course of the research.

This report seems particularly noteworthy with respect to the scope of work reported and its potential significance. The very title catches your attention: “Self-Sustaining Produced Water Treatment for Concurrent Renewable Energy Production, Desalination, and Organic Removal.” This casts a wide net and may sound a little over-reaching, but in fact the reported research results appear to fully justify the title.

Due to the expansion of oil and gas exploration and production in the Permian and San Juan Basins in New Mexico, the by-product produced water volume continues to increase significantly. In addition, with the oil and gas boom, millions of gallons of fresh water are needed for well drilling and hydraulic fracturing. At the same time, a prolonged drought has seriously restricted the water available for agriculture, municipal, and industrial uses. Given this situation, it would clearly be desirable to find a way to remediate the increasing supply of produced water to help mitigate the worsening scarcity of fresh water. Drs. Xu and Stoll collaborated with Professor Zhiyong Ren’s group at the University of Colorado to address this very important problem by demonstrating the feasibility of a novel process that can desalinate and remove organic contaminants from produced water in an economical way. They’ve done this by developing an innovative microbial capacitive deionization cell (MCDC) to simultaneously remove organic substances and salts from produced water so that the treated water can be potentially recycled and reused. Moreover, compared to other energy intensive systems, MCDC uses bacteria to convert biodegradable pollutants into direct electricity, which offsets operation energy use, or might eventually even supply additional energy for other systems.

This means that the MCDC process can exploit the electrochemical energy in the contaminants to produce electric power to drive the reactions that can cleanse the water with respect to organic, microbial, and mineral salts. Therefore, MCDC offers significant potential for onsite produced water treatment in the form of multi-function infrastructure without external energy input. Hats off to our intrepid researchers for this accomplishment, and we look forward to the further evolutionary development, and eventual scaling up and commercialization of their MCDC system.

The report in its entirety is available on the NM WRRI website by clicking here.

The NM WRRI is delighted to announce New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman as the 2016 Albert E. Utton Memorial Water Lecturer. The talk is part of the institute’s annual water conference and will be held at the noon luncheon on October 6, 2016 in Silver City at the historic Murray Hotel located downtown.

The Albert E. Utton Memorial Water Lecture honors the memory of a lifelong friend of the New Mexico water community. Al Utton served New Mexico for over 35 years as a distinguished member of the University of New Mexico School of Law, a 20-year member of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, a valued advisor to the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, a worldwide authority on transboundary issues, and a recognized leader in conflict resolution.

To learn more about this year’s annual water conference and to register, click here.

NM WRRI Welcomes Website Designer Student Assistant
by Catherine Ortega Klett, Program Manager

NMSU undergraduate student José Ortiz joined the NM WRRI staff recently to work on its website. He will maintain the institute’s website with new content such as for the upcoming Annual New Mexico Water Conference scheduled for October. José will make daily updates with information on various projects such as the Statewide Water Assessment, Produced Water Project, the NMSU/Reclamation cooperative agreement, upcoming conferences and workshops hosted by the institute, as well as the posting of reports, data, news, and other resources for New Mexico’s water community..

José will be working with Sofia Fatima, NM WRRI’s website designer, who will be graduating with an MS degree in computer science in December from NMSU.

José is a senior pursuing a BS degree in computer science. He is coupling his aptitude for computer coding with his talents in production, particularly music production. He plays the guitar and has recorded music in a variety of genres. José says someday he wants to own his own software development company or recording label. As he puts it, “I love the process of creating, whether its music or programming.” We’re glad that he’ll be directing some of that creative energy on behalf of WRRI.

Follow us on Twitter!
by Jesslyn Ratliff, Program Manager

NM WRRI’s mission is to develop and disseminate knowledge that will assist the state and nation in solving water problems. As part of this effort, WRRI has launched a Twitter account.

In 140 characters or less, of course, we will tweet about water-related information such as available technical reports, student and faculty funding opportunities, new innovative water science in New Mexico, water-related talks by students or faculty, and relevant conferences and other events. We look forward to using this efficient way of sharing information in a timely fashion.

You may follow us at

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