Seed Money Grant Program

Support of small "seed money" projects allows State University faculties to explore and develop research ideas that can attract more substantial outside funding. This is done with the federal base grant (Section 104B of the Water Resources Research Act - [Public Law 109-471]) and part of the funds provided by the State of New Mexico. These grants are limited to $30,000 per year and may be up to 3 years in duration. These grants are available to any tenure track faculty member in any department at any of the state's 6 universities (UNM, NMTech, NMSU, NMHU, NMWU, & NMEU).

There were 9 awards made in the 2005-06 program. To read more about each project, click on the project title below:

Maritza Macias-Corral research photo
  • Mitigation of Membrane Biofouling by Harnessing Bacterial Cannibalism; New Mexico Tech; Frank Huang, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Snezna Rogelj, Department of Biology

  • Millions of barrels of produced water are generated during gas production in New Mexico each year. While not drinkable because of the high salt content, trace organics, and heavy metals, produced water can be treated for agricultural and industrial purposes. Using produced water for industrial purposes would free up freshwater for other uses. A major problem with treating produced water with membrane separation, as is commonly done, is that its large-scale implementation has been plagued by the reoccurring biofouling of the membranes and the associated high operating costs. Conventional de-fouling techniques, such as acid and alkaline/detergent cleaning, are generally ineffective. This research looks at using bacteria’s ability to “eat” their neighboring siblings under nutrient-limited conditions and feed on the released nutrients. This “cannibalism” may be used to control membrane biofouling.
    Abstract; Technical Completion Report

  • A Physically Based Parsimonious Approach for Spatial Disaggregation and Recovery of NEXRAD Precipitation Data in Mountainous Terrains; New Mexico Tech; John Wilson, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

  • Mountain rains are a major source of fresh water in New Mexico. Characterizing the spatial variability of precipitation is critical for understanding and predicting both natural and human-influenced hydrologic responses, like recharge, runoff, and reservoir releases. NEXRAD radar is used to provide continuous temporal and spatial precipitation data. This study provides a statistical approach to improve the quality of NEXRAD estimation, which will be valuable to water resources managers, water regulators, planners, and decision makers like the Office of the State Engineer and the Interstate Stream Commission.

  • Development of Geospatial Modeling Tools for Watershed-Based Water Resources Management in New Mexico; New Mexico Tech; Enrique Vivoni, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

  • Providing decision makers with better forecasts of water supply is the aim of this research that will develop new geospatial modeling tools for managing water supplies in New Mexico using scientific knowledge on climate, surface, and groundwater relations. Although the modeling results are sophisticated, they will be made amenable to water managers via the web in a similar fashion to existing drought maps. The modeling tool is expected to provide detailed simulation capabilities for flood and drought forecasting, estimate runoff, evaporation and aquifer recharge, and simulate basin water storage and supply.
    Abstract; Technical Completion Report

  • Predicting Land Use Change and Its Effect on Nonpoint Source Pollution; University of New Mexico; Jennifer Thacher and Janie Chermak, Department of Economics

  • The two researchers are heading a project that will provide an economic model of land use change within the Middle Rio Grande basin. The model will be used to predict future land use patterns in the region and to estimate future nonpoint pollution levels. City managers and water quality agencies could use this model for planning purposes.
    Abstract; Technical Completion Report

  • Estimating Water Use through Satellite Remote Sensing; New Mexico State University; Max Bleiweiss and Rhonda Skaggs, College of Agriculture and Home Economics and Zohrab Samani College of Engineering

  • Recently, an evaluation of the Lower Rio Grande indicated that over half the water is unaccounted for in the water budget. That water is likely used for households, riparian vegetation, supplemental farm irrigation, and off-season runoff. In order to determine how the water is being consumed, the researchers will use innovations in satellite technology that have made it possible to process satellite data to estimate evapotranspiration. A team of investigators at NMSU have developed the software to provide regional ET maps from the NASA-TERRA satellite. These maps can be used to help schedule irrigation, for example. The maps will also allow for assessing the impact of water conservation policies on a regional basis by measuring water use before and after the implementation of policies. Real time ET maps will be made available to the public thereby allowing farmers to compare the water use of different crops and determine the best irrigation schedule.

    Deng and student research photo
  • Land Application of Industrial Effluent on a Chihuahuan Desert Ecosystem; New Mexico State University; Manjo Shukla, John Mexal and Ted Sammis, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

  • In many areas of southern New Mexico and the border region, there is a need to develop low-cost wastewater treatment methods. These areas are experiencing rapid population growth, urban expansion, and environmental pollution. Using conventional treatment technologies to treat wastewater to a high standard is not always practical, especially in communities that lack the required infrastructure and cannot afford the installation and maintenance. This research looks at land application systems, a biological treatment technology that has low costs and easy management compared to conventional technologies. This project will evaluate a land application system installed at the West Mesa Industrial Park near the city of Las Cruces.

  • Solar Desalination of Brackish Water Using Membrane Distillation Process; New Mexico State University; Shuguang Deng, Department of Chemical Engineering

  • This research will try to improve the distillation process used for desalinating brackish water in our state. This technology consumes low energy and can use low grade energy. This will drastically reduce the cost for treating brackish water to produce high quality fresh water. Specifically, Deng and his research team are evaluating the technical and economic feasibility of a solar evaporative desalination process that uses membrane distillation technology. Membrane distillation is a relatively new process that is being looked at worldwide as a low cost, energy saving alternative to conventional separation processes such as distillation and reverse osmosis. The technology uses a porous hydrophobic membrane that excludes liquid from the pores but not vapors. The process can be operated at a lower temperature than regular thermal distillation. This process could be powered with New Mexico’s solar energy.
    Abstract; Technical Completion Report

  • Sustainable Recovery of Potable Water from Saline Waters; New Mexico State University; Nirmala Khandan, Department of Civil and Geological Engineering

  • This researcher is developing a solar-powered desalination system and will conduct pilot scale studies on the system. His approach has the potential for wider applications in reclaiming high quality water from wastewaters and industrial side streams such as produced waters from oil fields. An advantage to his approach is that it does not consume nonrenewable energy resources, reduces reliance on energy imports, and is not harmful to the environment.

  • Utilization of Saline and Other Impaired Waters for Turfgrass Irrigation; New Mexico State University; Bernd Leinauer, Department of Extension Plant Sciences and Ryan Goss, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

  • This project looks at trying to make use of the vast amount of brackish water in New Mexico by determining if saline and other impaired waters can be utilized for turf irrigation. New and improved salt tolerant warm season grasses have made the prospect of using these grasses in conjunction with saline irrigation water quite promising. These grasses are now being tested for their combined cold hardiness and salt tolerance under harsh high altitude climate conditions.

Khandan and student research photo