News - Spring 2012 Newsletter

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WRRC Awards104(b) Grants for 2012-13

Three new research projects received funding through the Water Resources Research Act, Section 104(b) program. The Section 104(b) program, which is administered by the U.S. Geological Survey, provides support for research projects on water-related issues in each of the 50 states, 3 territories and the District of Columbia. This year, the WRRC selected three 104(b) projects that focus on toxic substances in Arizona’s wastewater.

The call for proposals this year drew attention to on-going efforts to implement research recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Water Sustainability. Several of these recommendations aimed to encourage reuse of wastewater by resolving issues of water quality.

Reyes Sierra and James Field focus on nanoparticle contamination in “Fate of Emerging Nanoparticle Contaminants during Aquifer Recharge with Treated Wastewater.” The growing application of engineered nanomaterials (particles less than 100nm) in industrial processes and consumer products is leading to increasing emissions of nanoparticles (NPs) into the environment. Engineered NPs are contaminants of emerging concern. Studies conducted over the past ten years have provided compelling evidence that a variety of engineered NPs can cause toxic effects to mammalian cells and other ecologically-important species. Effluent discharges from municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants are important sources of NP emissions into the environment. In Arizona and other locations where artificial aquifer recharge with treated sewage is practiced, NPs carried by the wastewater could potentially be transported to groundwater used for drinking water supply. The purpose of this study is to determine the extent to which NPs in treated wastewater are attenuated by soil-aquifer treatment.

David Quanrud, Robert Arnold, Eduardo Saez, and Shane Snyder focus on trace organic contaminants in “Toxicity of Emerging Contaminants in an Effluent Dependent Stream: the Role of Suspended Solids and Sediments.” This project will evaluate the toxicity and endocrine disruption activity due to trace organic contaminants (TOrCs) associated with solid phase sources and sinks in an effluent dependent stream near Tucson, Arizona. The work builds on a recent study by the principal investigators that examined the transport and fate of a suite of TOrCs along a 22-mile reach of the Lower Santa Cruz River (SCR) extending downstream from two municipal wastewater treatment facilities in Pima County, Arizona. Project results will provide the first information concerning toxicity, including estrogenic, androgenic, and cytotoxicity measurements derived from solid-phase associated TOrCs in sources and sinks in the Lower SRC. Proposed work is  motivated by the need to assess the transport and fate of TOrCs toxicity contribution provided by the solid-phase in an effluent dependent stream, along with the need to establish baseline data in the Santa Cruz River prior to the 2015 completion of upgraded treatment processes at the Pima County municipal wastewater treatment facilities, upgrades that are expected to improve effluent quality and river health substantially.

Channah Rock and Leif Abrell focus on conventional activated sludge in “Does Increasing Solids Retention Time in the Wastewater Treatment Process Affect the Persistence of Antibiotic Resistance Genes?” The conventional activated sludge process exposes bacteria to both ideal growth conditions and relatively high concentrations of trace chemical pollutants. Though increased solids retention time (SRT) has been correlated with reductions in trace antibiotics, higher SRTs also provide prolonged exposure of bacteria to influent antibiotic levels, potentially increasing the development of antibiotic resistance (AR). The proposed study will assess the effects of varying SRT in full-scale activated sludge processes on the degradation of trace antibiotics and microbial selection for AR. A detailed assessment of rates in AR development and identification of bacterial processes contributing to AR will aid in technological advances to decrease the prevalence of AR in recycled water, alleviating environmental and public health concerns.

Public Comments on Proposals for Operating Glen Canyon Dam

Federal officials have come up with nearly a dozen proposals on how to operate Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the National Park Service scheduled a two-day meeting in Flagstaff to present those plans to the public. The meeting was held on April 4 and 5, 2012 at the High Country Conference Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. More than 70 people attended the meeting, including members of the public, stakeholders, and project staff from Reclamation, NPS, and Argonne National Laboratory.

Operation of the dam affects hydroelectricity, beach recreation, archaeological sites in the Grand Canyon and native fish in the Colorado River. Since the 1960s, the Dam has starved the river of the sediments that gave the river its name; new operating rules could mitigate that situation.

The agencies have been gathering input on what they say is the first comprehensive review of dam operations in 15 years. They will ultimately produce an environmental impact statement with proposed changes. The EIS will evaluate dam operations and identify management actions and experimental options that will provide a framework for adaptively managing Glen Canyon Dam over the next 15 to 20 years.

New U.S. Water Partnership Formed

The US Water Partnership (USWP) is a new U.S.-based public-private partnership (PPP) that gathers American expertise, knowledge, and resources to address water challenges around the globe The partnership will create new opportunities for international engagement for a broad spectrum of U.S. entities.

The USWP was derived from a series of consultative meetings held between January and September 2011 with representatives from the private sector, NGOs, academic/scientific institutions, and U.S. government agencies. They agreed on the need to share U.S. knowledge, leverage and mobilize resources, and facilitate cross-sector partnerships in order to scale up innovative solutions. Activities will focus especially on the developing world, where needs are greatest.

The U.S. Water Partnership is intended to connect people and resources, making information easily accessible and leveraging the assets of partners to offer a range of “best of the U.S.” solutions tailored to priority water needs.

The USWP will measure both quantitative and qualitative results from activities based upon the type of water challenge being addressed. Success will be measured by how well the program meets partners’ goals and by the overall impact on the larger water security challenges facing people and the planet. For more information, visit