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!
Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy