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Supercomputing Challenge

Pharmaceutical Breakdown

Team: 35


Area of Science: Hydrology

Interim: Problem Definition:

For many years the assumption was made that Albuquerque had an enormous reservoir of clean underground water and our future was secure. However, the Aquifer under Albuquerque is being slowly depleted due to an extremely slow recharge rate and the fact that we have been extracting water faster than the river can replenish the supply. That combined with a growing population can cause devastating problems. To deal with the problem the city will begin their treatment of Rio Grande water and are preparing to distribute it to their consumers in 2008. The new treatment facility will remove all known pollutants from this surface water.

The problem that we will encounter is one that is growing nation wide. Researchers have found trace amounts of pharmaceuticals flowing in surface water almost everywhere they have tested, everything from anti-depressants and hormones to antibiotics. There has been very little research done as to what low concentrations of pharmaceuticals can do to people over time. This could be a ticking time bomb.

Problem Solution:

Using Starlogo we will create a surface flow model of the Rio Grande. We will then benchmark the distribution and movement of currently known pollutants in the river with our model (gathered from annual USGS data). When we are confidant that our model is reflecting actual river flow we will introduce pharmaceuticals, showing these pollutants flowing down the Rio Grande reflecting their concentrations, point of degradation ( i.e. evaporation, absorption, dilution, etc.), and the volume and velocity of water as it flows.


We have created a basic linear flow model that graphs water at the specified gauging stations as it flows down the Rio Grande. We have divided tasks among our group.

Expected Results:

In our project we expect to see how concentrations of pharmaceuticals are distributed throughout a river system. We expect that some compounds remain in surface water for very long periods of time, creating a possible health problem for downstream users.


Kathryn D. Brown, Pharmaceutically active compounds in residential and hospital effluent, municipal wastewater, and the Rio Grande in Albuquerque.

Team Members:

  james mayfield-martinez
  Amber rae quintana
  kelsy wilson
  Wilson Greaves
  chase heard

Sponsoring Teacher: Joseph Vertrees

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