AiS Challenge Team Interim

Team Number: 068

School Name: Picach Middle School

Area of Science: enviromental

Project Title: Nitrogen Water Polution


Problem Definition: Water quality has always been an important issue throughout the United States, and is especially true in the Southwest. As a result, we decided to base our project on sources of water contamination. The contaminant source that we selected for this project is nitrogen. We hope to create a program that will show the rate at which nitrogen contaminates a given area, the direction in which it spreads, and the effects of certain solutions that are used to try and neutralize the nitrogen contamination. We have been researching land maps that show the water table in order to identify the high and low spots in the under ground water. In addition, we plan to identify the direction and rate of movement so that we can more accurately predict the how far the nitrogen contamination will spread over several years. Once we have accurate maps and data, we will then be able to begin creating our program.

Reason for Project: The reason we selected this project is because there are quite a large number of dairies that operate in the Las Cruces area. Dairies are a known source of nitrogen because of the large amounts of manure produced. Given that the water table in Las Cruces is very shallow, and that we don't have a huge supply of water, it is very important that we find ways to minimize the potential for contamination. In addition, our team members have some small and extremely large farms located in the area, and we recognize that it is our responsibility to help protect the water for other farmers and families in Southern New Mexico.

Problem Solution: In order to complete this program, we plan to use groundwater maps and gather data on different locations that have been identified as having high nitrogen levels. Some of the major variables that will be identified include the physical location of the dairies with respect to the underground water supply, the rate of underground water movement, and how fast the nitrogen seeps into the ground water supply. In order to determine the rate of contamination over a period of time, we will need to utilize several mathematical equations to produce a program that will show where nitrogen contamination is highest, the direction in which it is spreading, and the effects of certain solutions that will be used to try and neutralize the contamination. By developing this program, we hope to be better able to help prevent future contamination of New Mexico's groundwater supply.

Progress to Date: To date, we have met with our mentor to learn more about nitrogen contamination in the Las Cruces area. Our mentor is Dr. Zohrab Samani, a professor in Civil Engineering at New Mexico State University. Dr. Samani has taught us how to read groundwater maps, and has shown us different ways that we can develop our project. We have also done research to learn more about nitrogen contamination, the costs associated with re-locating a dairy facility, and possible ways to prevent the nitrogen from contaminating the groundwater.

Expected Results: We hope to successfully simulate the rate of nitrogen contamination for a fictitious dairy. The dairy will be operating under a set of predetermined conditions. Some of these conditions will include the size of the dairy herd, physical location with respect to water the table, size of the holding ponds, and the overall size of the dairy. We also hope to be able to determine the effectiveness of different solutions that will be used to try and neutralize the contamination

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