April 5, 2006
Team Number: 37
Freedom High School
Jeremy Harris Teacher Name:
Joe Vertrees Students Mentor:
Estrogen. Zoloft. Amoxicillan. Does the Rio Grande contain these drugs? Will we
be drinking them soon? We don’t know as almost no research has been done to find
these in our water. A limited number of pharmaceuticals have been found in the Rio
Grande with levels in the billionths of a gram. Although the pharmaceutical levels are
very low, no research has been done to determine the long-term health effects of
Anti-depressants, antibiotics, and various hormones (including estrogen) have
been detected. Although there is not only one source of all of these drugs, many of them
have been found to be coming out of nursing homes and hospitals, which makes sense
considering they can’t re-use medications. Excretion and direct flushing of these
compounds is also contributing to the problem.
Starting in spring of 2008, the city of Albuquerque will begin pumping drinking
water straight out of the Rio Grande. Obviously this raises some concern considering the
fact that we have no idea what exposure to these drugs is doing. CH2MHILL is over-
seeing the project, but they have not been doing any research as to what pharmaceuticals
Many of these metabolically significant organic compounds have been known to
degrade naturally (with dilution or exposure to sunlight) but others aren’t degrading at all.
Since nobody has really been looking at pharmaceuticals in our surface water, there are,
at present, no techniques as to how to filter these compounds.
“Today we are already "borrowing" about 60,000 acre-feet/year from the river in
the stretch that runs past Albuquerque. We do this by pumping 110,000 acre-feet of water
from the aquifer, half of which is being replenished by river water. We don't notice the
reduction in flow because it is not happening at a single point, but occurs gradually over
several miles. We return about 55,000 acre-feet of water to the river in the form of
reclaimed (cleaned) wastewater. For now, the 5,000 acre-foot deficit is made up for by
the 23,000 acre-feet of Rio Grande water rights the City owns. When we add our San
Juan-Chama water AND reduce pumping to a sustainable amount less water will leave
the river to recharge the aquifer. Thus, the net change is minor.
Even without the compensating reduction in river-to-aquifer water, the additional
47,000 acre-feet of water that the Water Utility "borrows" in this stretch of the river, is
less than 5 percent of the river's flow of 1.1 million acre-feet past Albuquerque. For
example, in October, when flow is traditionally lowest, this would amount to about ONE
TO TWO INCHES of river depth. When flows are very low, the Utility will reduce or
eliminate withdrawals altogether and rely on ground water supplies alone until flow is
Whereas our Mentor Joe Sterling says that according to the U.S.G.S. we are
essentially mining the water from the aquifer. The reason is that river water takes a long
time to get into the aquifer, due to clay and ground layering, causing water drop rate to be
This shows the politics of water in an arid climate.
We have developed a basic linear model of the mid Rio Grande River using
USGS gage station data. We will align flow of velocity and volume with historical data
using the data that we have already found on the USGS site. The model will show how
pharmaceutical pollutants degrade over distance and time, based on a scaled down, linear
At this point in time, we have not been able to achieve the results we were
hoping for. We were hoping to show how these pharmaceuticals degrade over distance
and time, but that is something that we will be able to add to our already existing, simple
linear model in the near future. We will also be able to show the increase and decrease of
the velocity and volume of the water as it flows down the Rio Grande, keeping in mind
such factors as evaporation and absorption.
At this point we can conclude that this model is “do-able”. At this point we are
not able to draw any conclusions from the current state of our model, but we should be
developing preliminary results in the near future.
We have been able to examine and understand the complexities of ground water
and the geological effects of pulling water out of aquifers. We understand the dangers
and positive affects of using surface water. During our studies we were able to take an
in-depth tour of our new water treatment plant, which is in the process of construction
and being overseen by CH2Mhill. We have learned about the complexities of surface
water (i.e., flow rates, evaporation, etc.) and understand the methods used to purify this
As of now our model is a linear representation of a quantity of water flowing
down the Rio Grande. At the top right hand corner we have a water volume graphic that
represents the increase in water at given points in our model. Things such as evaporation
and absorption are factors that will be added later. We have different points that
represent different drainage stations, based on information from the USGS data.
The model is a scaled down view of the Rio Grande
As of now we only have two buttons, which is really all we need to test the
model. The first, the setup button, calls the setup parameters and kills the already
existing “turtles” and resets the graphics. The locations of the USGS gages were
determined from their latitude and longitude using GPS software. This allowed us to find
the river miles between the stations and create the framework for the model. Then we
have the “flow” button, which tells the turtles to go forward from their creation point.
We have a slider that allows us to manipulate the volume of water coming down the Rio
Grande. The volume of water each “turtle” represents is yet undetermined. This slider
will eventually be replaced by a function that allows us to add certain quantities of water
at input points along the Rio Grande, thus modeling the natural flow of the river. The
input quantities will be based on historical values from USGS data. We will also need to
add exit points based upon water usage, evaporation, etc. Upon reaching a rough flow
model for the Rio Grande we will then be ready to introduce various pollutants. We will
begin with more traditional pollutants that are regularly measured to test the accuracy of
our model. At this point we will be ready to introduce pharmaceuticals into our system.
We understand this is the point we wished to be at in our interim report, but this is a
project that we plan on extending into next years challenge.
First shown are the observer commands, which is most definitely the bulk of our
coding. This is where the setup and flow buttons call all of their procedures.
globals [count otowi albuquerque isleta]
to setup ca ;clears the graphic model window set count -10 repeat 10 [ask-patch-at count 120 [setpc red] set count (count + 1)] set count -10 ; Embudo repeat 10 [ask-patch-at count 94 [setpc red] set count (count + 1)] set count -10 ; Otowi repeat 10 [ask-patch-at count 72 [setpc red] set count (count + 1)] set count -10 ; Cochiti repeat 10 [ask-patch-at count 58 [setpc red] set count (count + 1)] set count -10 ; San Felipe repeat 10 [ask-patch-at count 36 [setpc red] set count (count + 1)] set count -10 ; Alameda repeat 10 [ask-patch-at count 27 [setpc red] set count (count + 1)] set count -10 ; Albuquerque repeat 10 [ask-patch-at count 17 [setpc red] set count (count + 1)] set count -10 ; Isleta Lakes repeat 10 [ask-patch-at count -33 [setpc red] set count (count + 1)] set count -10 ; San Acacia repeat 10 [ask-patch-at count -77 [setpc red] set count (count + 1)] set count -10 ; San Marcial repeat 10 [ask-patch-at count -119 [setpc red] set count (count + 1)] set count -10; Elephant Butte end to flow repeat number [make_water]; generates water at points in the model ask-turtles [fd 1] set otowi (count-turtles-at 0 94) set albuquerque (count-turtles-at 0 27) set isleta (count-turtles-at 0 17) ask-turtles [if ycor = (-120) [die]] end to make_water ask-patch-at 0 120 [sprout [seth 180 setc blue]]; makes water at the Embudo Gage on the Rio Grande end
We don’t have coding in the turtle command center of the procedures page, but
we will eventually need to add more to it.
Brown, K. (2001). Pharmaceutically Active Compounds in the Rio Grande
Rural Water Partnership fund (2004). Pharmaceuticals, regulatory briefing.
Mcquillan, D. New Mexico Environment Department. Drug Residues in
Ambient Water: Initial Surveillance in New Mexico, USA
Water Watch-Current Water Resources Conditions. (2006). U.S Geological
Sterling, J. (2006). Personal Interview.
Retrieved January 3, 17, and 24.
Kim, C. (2006). Drinking Water may be at Risk [Electronic version]. Retrieved
San Juan-Chama Diversion Project. (2005). Retrieved February, 17 2006 from
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