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Border 2020

Region 6 Project News (November 2020)

(versión en español)

Five photos (Left to Right): Water steam out of a stack, wastewater plant, solids from wastewater treatment plant, two fire fighters fighting a fire, man with hard hat and clipboard inspecting

Executive Summary of Projects

Climate and Air Quality Network

Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez (UACJ) developed a low-cost air sensor prototype with the hopes of expanding their air and meteorological monitoring network in Ciudad Juarez soon. These air sensors would help to provide real-time air quality information to the public within their community. The first phase of the project focused on building and programming software on three prototype sensors placed in the community, measuring ozone, PM, CO, temperature, and relative humidity. The second phase analyzed the hardware and software of the technology in order to operate a low-cost sensor long term, as well as, develop a webpage that visually demonstrated the station readings for all the prototypes. The last phase included archiving existing meteorological data from the nine stations UACJ operates and making this data publicly available.

Mitigation of Localized Flooding – Green Infrastructure Master Plan

Due to expanding urbanization and increased rainfall, the landscape of the Lower Rio Grande is shifting from a natural environment to more impervious infrastructure. Urban stormwater runoff causes polluted water and a decline in aquatic biota. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, along with City of Mercedes and Lower Rio Grande Valley, proposed a Green Infrastructure Master Plan to mitigate localized flooding, stop contamination of water, and minimize environmental impact. The Plan calls for green infrastructure to be integrated into regional construction projects and as a tool for other cities. The project team conducted outreach on its Plan at various water conferences throughout the region. With the implementation of the Plan, the City of Mercedes expects an increase in green infrastructure projects in the city with the hope that it will enhance property values, increase quality of life and address flood issues.

Safe Drinking Water for Border Colonias

Throughout the US-Mexico border region, several unincorporated areas known as Colonias, continue to exist while lacking basic water infrastructure. The University of Texas at El Paso evaluated the use of two low-cost Point-of-Use systems to create sustainable solutions for several unincorporated communities in the Paso del Norte Region. The two types of systems selected were the Sawyer Point one gravity driven bucket filter and the in-line Reverse Osmosis filter under the sink setup. A total of 14 under the sink Point of Use systems were installed in the US and 60 bucket filters were delivered to families in the Mexican Colonias. UTEP collected 84 water samples and analyzed pH, conductivity, total dissolved solids, and other water properties to aid the filter installation project and analyze each filter’s effectiveness in improving water quality. After the research was finished, the team conducted educational outreach to residents regarding environmental health issues related to drinking water in their community. Pre and Post surveys were utilized to assess water practices and perceptions of Colonia residents concerning water quality and behavioral changes. This project concluded that some residents were able stop purchasing bottled water for drinking because their water quality improved drastically. In addition, most of the resident’s perception of use of these systems was positive and felt they were reliable systems to use for drinking water purposes.

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley: Soil Infiltration

Communities along the US-Mexico border, rapid urbanization has led to an increase of stormwater runoff and urban flooding. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) studied the remediation of urban compacted soils to improve infiltration by adopting agronomic practices (tillage and compost), to further look at how projects such as bioswales or rain gardens could be more effective. This project evaluated urban soil remediation consisting of tillage and/or compost through establishing field-testing sites, performing data analysis, and determining a turfgrass health indicator. The project concluded that whether applying both tillage and compost, or just doing one vs the other, promoted soil growth and/or increased infiltration rate. The project team presented their results at various conferences in the region. In addition, the project served as an outdoor classroom for UTRGV students in environmental science, geology and soil science courses.

Wastewater Discharge Regulation

In Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Fats, Oil and Greases (FOG’s) from business and commercial entities has led to sewage accumulation and collapsed sewer lines within the existing wastewater infrastructure. The Border 2020 project provided training workshops and outreach to FOG generators to promote awareness of wastewater infrastructure and ecosystem protection. The primary workshops focused on reinforcing pretreatment and control programs of FOG disposal through the installation of grease traps that reduce sewer system blockages and line failures. Matamoros then launched an electronic media campaign to educate residents about the importance of disposing FOG in sustainable ways instead of down the drain. As part of the outreach, 15 grease traps were distributed to businesses in trainings and workshops held. In addition, compliance inspections and wastewater discharge sampling analysis of was conducted at various commercial entities.

K12 GIS Capacity Building and Research

The University of Texas at El Paso collaborated with the school districts in Southern New Mexico and West Texas to promote education in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to help students understand real-world local, regional, or global issues and build their critical thinking skills to investigate these problems. The project focused on training teachers to educate students on inquiry-based learning of environmental issues of air, water quantity and quality, urban growth, and environment-human health interactions. Over 90 educators were trained through four 2-day workshops on using the ArcGIS platform. The workshops included hands on exercises and interactive material to supplement teacher’s technical skills with GIS. The project was successful in enhancing environmental awareness of K-12 educators by using GIS in the El Paso Region.

For more details regarding each project, please read the project factsheets below.

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