The cienega, a 15,000-acre wetland, is home to several endangered species and is a major stopover for birds migrating north and south along the Pacific Flyway.
The desalting plant, or YDP, is scheduled to begin its latest trial run May 3.
"The plant will use U.S. agricultural runoff that would otherwise flow to this Mexican wetland," said team leader Karl W. Flessa, director of the UA's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
About 30 percent of the water now flowing into the cienega will be diverted into the plant for desalination. The plant's effluent, a smaller volume of much saltier water, will be returned to the canal that flows into the cienega.The Mexican community of Ejido Johnson operates a small ecotourism business at the wetland. Birdwatchers are attracted by the birds found there, including the Yuma Clapper Rail, listed as an endangered species by the U.S. and Mexico.
The team, scientists from both Mexico and the U.S., has been collecting baseline data since 2006 and plans to continue during and after the desalting plant's trial run. The plant is scheduled to operate for a total of 12 months out of the next 18.
"It's really unusual to have this level of cross-border collaboration on such a sensitive water issue," said Flessa. "We've expanded our efforts since September, thanks to support from the three major western water agencies and INE, the Mexican National Institute of Ecology."
The agencies are the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The cienega currently receives about 107,000 acre-feet of agricultural runoff water per year. When the YDP is running, the cienega is projected to receive about 67,000 acre-feet of runoff plus about 10,000 acre-feet of effluent from the plant.An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons - enough to support a family of four for one year, according to the Central Arizona Project.
To answer that question, the researchers placed instruments that record water quality and water level every 30 minutes at 20 locations all over the cienega. Some instruments are in open water, some are along the edges of the marsh, and others are deep in cattail thickets.
Every month, the researchers use small boats to visit every instrument and download the information stored in it.
The team also measures water flow where the cienega's main sources of water, the agricultural canals known as the Bypass Drain and the Riito Drain, empty in the cienega.
The researchers assess the bird populations during the breeding season and during the spring and fall migrations. The team uses satellite images to measure the extent of the vegetation.
"We see the cattails green up in the spring and die back in the fall," Flessa said. "We're not sure if the seasonal variation in water level is because of agricultural water use north of the cienega or because of seasonal changes in water use by the cattails."
At the April meeting of the monitoring team, the researchers were able to see whether the April 4 Mexicali earthquake affected the cienega.
"We may yet see some evidence of earthquake effects in the data, but while in the field on April 21 we did not see significant changes in the water level," he said.
The water monitoring equipment is still functioning, and the Bypass Drain is still delivering water to the cienega, he said.
In the future, the researchers will download some of the water data remotely thanks to an instrumentation grant from the UA Water Sustainability Program.
"We will be able to sit at our computers in Tucson or Mexicali or in Phoenix and see how the water level and water quality is changing in real-time," Flessa said.
The monitoring program is the result of binational collaboration that includes three universities, the UA and INE, Mexico's National Institute of Ecology, and the University of Baja California, Mexicali; the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; and two non-governmental organizations, ProNatura and the Sonoran Institute. The Biosphere Reserve of the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta is also a partner.
Researcher contacts:Karl Flessa, 520-621-6000 or 621-2027
Mari N. Jensen | EurekAlert!
Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung
Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences