Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Water: Researchers seek ways to make the most of a limited resource

August 15, 2005
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researchers in El Paso look for ways to make water resources stretch further.

Geologist Joshua Villalobos with Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in El Paso checks the rubber lining on a section of the Franklin Canal near El Paso. The lining was installed to study how it affects rates of water loss in the canal through seepage. (Texas Agricultural Experiment Station photo by Linda Anderson)

EL PASO – Mild winters, low humidity, lots of room, cultural diversity, higher education opportunities and a lively economy – El Paso has a lot to offer.

But one thing it doesn't have is a lot of water.

Enter Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researchers, who study ways to make the most of the area's limited water supply.

El Paso sprawls at the base of the Franklin Mountains in the farthest point of West Texas. The terrain is mostly desert except for the Rio Grande, which meanders along the southern edge of the city, marking the Texas-Mexico border.

The river also marks the most valuable source of agricultural water in the area, said Dr. Zhuping Sheng, Experiment Station hydrogeologist in El Paso.

Sheng and his research assistant, geologist Joshua Villalobos, are involved in ongoing research to determine more efficient ways of utilizing water from the Rio Grande for agriculture, while protecting residents' water needs and the environment. Researchers from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces are also participating in the study.

"It's a delicate balance between irrigation needs, municipal needs and environmental needs," Sheng said.

The land in the Rio Grande valley near El Paso is the richest farmland in the area, Villalobos explained. And to help keep it that way, beginning more than 100 years ago a series of canals was built to help deliver the water to the fields.

One of the oldest of these canals – the Franklin Canal – was constructed in the late 19th century, he said.

Currently the El Paso Country Improvement District No. 1 operates and maintains about 350 miles of canals and laterals to divert water from the river for agricultural applications and municipal and industrial uses, Sheng said.

Most of the canals and the irrigation ditches that feed from them are basically ditches dug in the natural soils of the area, which means some of the water is lost through seepage, Villalobos said.

Several month ago, the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 put down about 800 feet of thin rubber lining on a portion of the Franklin Canal to determine its effectiveness in canal lining, Sheng said.

In fact, research by Sheng and Dr. Phillip King from the department of civil engineering at NMSU has shown that 10 percent to 30 percent of the water delivered by the system of canals is lost through seepage.

Sheng and Villalobos are studying how lining certain areas of the canals might impact the interaction between ground water and surface water.

"We want to know how it will affect the soil moisture content," Villalobos said, "since much of the water is absorbed in the soil."

The different soil types in the canals affect seepage rates, Villalobos said. In some areas the clay soil forms a natural barrier and keeps seepage rates lower.

"Other areas with sandy bottoms lose water easily," he said.

Using data collected from tests and measurements of the Franklin and other canals and laterals, the researchers have made some preliminary findings. They believe that lining 10 miles of canals could potentially save enough water for 1,000 acres of crops or 8,000 homes.

They also found that lining canals is expensive; therefore determining where water loss is greatest and lining those areas would be the most cost-effective.

Preliminary results will soon be published by Texas Water Resources Institute and New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute.

Even so, said Sheng, the research will be continued to confirm the potential water savings by canal lining.

Additional monitoring will be implemented to assure the performance of canal lining and high delivery efficiency, he added.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications. "Water: Researchers seek ways to make the most of a limited resource." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 August 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050811091055.htm>.
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications. (2005, August 15). Water: Researchers seek ways to make the most of a limited resource. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050811091055.htm
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications. "Water: Researchers seek ways to make the most of a limited resource." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050811091055.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This

More Earth & Climate News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins