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NMSU Tucumcari researchers to work with reclaimed municipal wastewater

TUCUMCARI, N.M. - What was old will be new again. What is new has the potential to open many agricultural research doors for New Mexico State University and benefit producers in the Southwest.

Researchers at NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Tucumcari will work on irrigated pasture grazing trials and crop production studies with the reclaimed municipal wastewater. (NMSU photo by Alec Richards)

NMSU's Agricultural Science Research Center at Tucumcari has teamed with the City of Tucumcari to pipe reclaimed municipal water from the city's wastewater treatment plant to the center, giving its researchers the opportunity to conduct valuable irrigation studies, even in a drought situation.

"The Arch Hurley Conservancy District - which provides water for our irrigation purposes - has had limited water allocations for each of the past 10 years," said Rex Kirksey, center superintendent. "We saw this as an opportunity where we could get a reliable year-round source of water that would enable us to continue to do research in areas that we have not been able to do for the last 10 years."

This collaboration creates a range of opportunities now that researchers do not have to worry from day to day if there will be enough water to conduct their work. One focus, Kirksey said, will be to resume work on irrigated pasture grazing trials and crop production studies.

"This also creates an opportunity for us to conduct research related to the issues of using reclaimed water for agricultural production purposes that are currently not allowed. The availability of reclaimed water will enable us to strengthen our research program at Tucumcari and hopefully, we can ensure our future longevity by adding a new research focus area and ensuring a reliable source of water," he said.

"Research aimed at serving the needs of local farmers will remain the primary focus of the science center," Kirksey said. "With this new water source, we will be able to conduct research on the impact of the seasonal availability of water on alfalfa and the production of small grain crops."

Kirksey said he will be looking for grant funds to study the biological effects of using reclaimed wastewater for agricultural production. The Tucumcari center will continue its work with dryland crops.

"Agriculturally, this gives us an opportunity to have an unlimited set of capabilities for doing crop production research," the superintendent said.

Bobbye Rose, Tucumcari city manager, described this collaboration as a win-win situation for the citizens of Tucumcari and for the university.

With Tucumcari being an agriculturally-minded community, Rose said it is important for the city to do whatever it can to help the local people.

"We are an example of how things should be done in the rest of the state, and in our nation - people working together for the common good of all," Rose said. "I think we're doing a wonderful job. I have to commend the employees at the agricultural science center. They've just been very forward thinking. They are the ones who brought this to us. We're pleased that we can help them and they can help us and be a perfect partnership."

Through the agreement, 300 acre feet of water will be pumped to land at the science center each year.

Kirksey said he hoped to have the pipeline installed and have irrigation water running by the end of the summer.