The University of New Mexico, the City of Albuquerque and RWL Water hosted the first Southwest Water & Energy Summit on April 22. Presenters and attendees examined the challenges, solutions and opportunities surrounding water issues.

The summit kicked off with comments by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, UNM President Robert Frank, RWL Water President and CEO Henry Charrabé, messages from representatives from the offices of U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Steve Pierce, and a video message from U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. 

"This symposium highlights the important role of the research university like UNM, not only to educate the next generation of leaders but also to conduct research and create knowledge to help solve the problems faced by our society,” Frank said.

Berry said the symposium was a strong first step in solving New Mexico’s water challenges.

"Creating sustainable solutions for water and energy use is of high importance for our city and state, and I was pleased to see so many leaders in academia, business, government, and science come together to discuss this issue,” Berry said. “I look forward to an ongoing conversation with the leaders in our community, and will continue to champion Albuquerque as a national leader in finding and implementing sustainable solutions."

The summit explored water challenges in public water and wastewater utilities; water challenges in the agriculture and dairy industries; water challenges in the oil, gas, mining, and power industries; technological solutions to water challenges; and legal constraints to water challenges.

The 25 panelists included representatives from the New Mexico Environment Department, the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department, and the State Engineer; individuals from each of the represented industries; engineers with Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory; and professors from the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, and New Mexico Tech. Each panel was followed by questions and discussion from the audience.

It was believed to be the first event of this type where academia, government, and private business discussed problems and possible solutions to New Mexico’s water challenges. The initiation of new pilot projects addressing each industry was the focus and the goal of the event.

The event was moderated by Kerry Howe, associate professor of civil engineering and director of UNM’s Center for Water and the Environment, based in the School of Engineering, and Bob Feinberg, a project developer for RWL Water.  The center consolidates and maximizes the water- and environmental-related research already under way across campus. It studies a variety of challenges related to water, including the effects of wildfires and climate change on water availability; advanced water and wastewater treatment to desalinate brackish ground water, recycle treated wastewater, and protect the environment; water for energy development and resource recovery; and water-quality issues.

The event was held in the Rotunda Room of the UNM Science & Technology Park. Approximately 160 people attended the event, which was filled to capacity.

RWL Water is a New York City-based sustainable water, wastewater, and reuse solutions company founded in 2010 by Ronald Lauder, who is the chairman of Clinique Laboratories, a division of the Lauder Companies Inc. RWL Water provides innovative global water, wastewater and energy solutions in more than 70 countries around the world with over 7,000 installations.