Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers study effect of yuma desalting plant on Cienega de Santa Clara

28.04.2010
A binational team is studying whether running the Yuma Desalting Plant will affect Mexico's Cienega de Santa Clara, the largest wetland on the Colorado River Delta.

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.

"We've been monitoring the water level, water quality, bird populations and vegetation in the cienega to find out if the operation of the Yuma Desalting Plant will affect the ecosystem," said Flessa, who is also head of UA's geosciences department.

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.

"I think we've got a good idea of what the natural range of variability is," he said. "So the question now is: When one-third of the water gets taken out to go through the Yuma Desalting Plant and a salty brine starts flowing toward the cienega instead, how will that affect the health of the cienega?"

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
kflessa@email.arizona.edu
Francisco Zamora, 520-668-1838
fzamora@sonoraninstitute.org
Osvel Hinojosa (in Mexico), 52-612-121-2800
ohinojosa@pronatura-noroeste.org
Related Web sites:
University of Arizona's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
http://www.sees.arizona.edu/
Yuma Desalting Plant
http://www.usbr.gov/lc/yuma/facilities/ydp/yao_ydp.html
Mexico's National Institute of Ecology
http://www.ine.gob.mx/english
Central Arizona Project
http://www.cap-az.com/
Southern Nevada Water Authority
http://www.snwa.com/html/
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
http://www.mwdh2o.com/
University of Baja California, Mexicali
http://campus.mxl.uabc.mx/
Sonoran Institute.
http://www.sonoraninstitute.org/
ProNatura
http://www.pronatura.org.mx/

Mari N. Jensen | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.arizona.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>