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Water Surety
Water Sustainability
Sustainability is assuring a sufficient supply of water across a broad cross-section of simultaneous users now and in the future. Water issues are technically challenging and politically complex at many different levels, from local communities to states to neighboring countries around the world.
We need go no farther than our own backyard to witness the passion and complexity of multi-stakeholder water issues. A group of these stakeholders in the Middle Rio Grande basin is in the midst of collectively developing a water use plan. The Middle Rio Grande basin planning process is providing a major test for Sandia's cooperative modeling tools and processes. This modeling tool, based on dynamic simulation techniques, provides a framework for assembling all natural and human elements of the water system. It provides the basis for collaborative development and evaluation of alternative water management scenarios. Sandia has teamed with the Utton Transboundary Resources Center at the University of New Mexico Law School. The Utton Center assists in facilitating dialogue among multiple stakeholders in this model development process.

Rio Grande Bosque, NM
Rio Grande Bosque
Albuquerque, NM
This process faces the huge challenge of working at the boundary between science and policy, technology and politics.

A second major area of the sustainability issue is to increase the water supply. Sandia has established a partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation to significantly expand desalination research and development. Our goal is to demonstrate a significant reduction in cost of producing potable water from inland, brackish water supplies. This program will focus on developing new, more energy efficient processes, will test the use of renewable energy, and will address the important environmental issue of brine by-product disposal. We are also in the process of designing a desalination field test facility located near Alamogordo in the Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico.

The third area of Sandia's involvement is in real-time monitoring to enable active water management. In order to make sound water management decisions, we must have good data in a timely, cost-effective manner that can enable comprehensive water management. The time-scale requirements vary from long-term, such as for monitoring snow runoff, to a shorter-term need for monitoring a large storm working its way down a river, to immediate real-time data to drive automated water treatment processes that turn on and off as water of differing quality enters a water treatment facility.

The importance and complexity of issues surrounding water sustainability are further amplified in relationships with our international neighbor, Mexico. In early summer 2002, tension over Mexico's failure to meet its treaty-driven (the 1944 Rio Grande Water Treaty) water delivery commitments heightened tensions in direct personal discussions between President Bush and Mexico's President Fox. The drought the southwestern United States is experiencing has also hit Mexico very hard. Reservoirs on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande are at less than 20% of their capacity. Mexico has accumulated 5 billion gallons of water delivery debt to the U.S. under the terms of the 1944 water treaty. At the same time, conditions are also reaching crisis proportions on the U.S. side. Consequently, water has become an area of major discord between our two countries. These same issues are facing other parts of the world, particularly the Middle East, South Asia, and Eastern Europe where water availability and viability of the water infrastructure are key ingredients heightening political and economic tensions in those areas.

Sandia is actively partnering with federal agencies, industry associations, universities, and water stakeholders, each of whom brings a need, a problem, or a potential solution to the table. We are meeting with congressional offices and New Mexico's congressional delegation who are pursuing opportunities to address the future sustainability of New Mexico and the Southwest's water resources. The safety, security, and sustainability of the water supply and the associated cross-cutting technologies of water treatment, real-time monitoring, and system level analysis require multi-user dialogue, multi-user planning, and collaborative implementation.

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