The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Desert Research Unit

Most DRU projects are interdisciplinary; collaborating units on campus include Chemical and Environmental Engineering; Soil, Water and Environmental Science; Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering; Hydrology; the Arizona Laboratory for Emerging Contaminants; the UA Water Village, and the Sarver Heart Center.  External collaborators include Northern Arizona University, Colorado School of Mines, Arizona State University, U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Laboratory (Denver), USGS Arizona Water Science Center, and AECOM consulting engineers. Project partners include: Arizona Water Institute; UA Water Sustainability Program; City of Tucson; Pima County Natural Resources, Parks, and Recreation; Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department; The Nature Conservancy; Arizona Dept. of Water Resources; Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality; Water Environment Research Foundation; and National Institutes for Water Resources.

Recent and ongoing grants have supported studies on (1) fate of emerging trace organic contaminants, including endocrine disrupting compounds, during wastewater treatment, sludge digestion, soil aquifer treatment, river transport, aquifer transport, and land application of biosolids; (2) wastewater and storm water treatment in constructed wetlands; (3) efficacy of “smart” irrigation technologies; and (4) revegetation of disturbed areas such as Arizona farmlands that have been retired for water rights. One current project is identifying the sources of a trace organic contaminant (perfluorooctane sulfonate, PFOS) recently detected in the Tucson aquifer; effluent recharge along the Santa Cruz River is suspected to be an important source. Another recent project utilized bench-scale experiments to optimize conventional biological wastewater treatment processes for maximizing removal of endocrine disrupting compounds.  A White Paper was prepared in 2010 for The Nature Conservancy, in collaboration with Northern Arizona University, on the biological impacts of emerging contaminants in wastewater effluent and treatment processes to reduce risk.

The DRU managed and conducted research at the Constructed Ecosystems Research Facility (CERF) for Pima County for 20 years. DRU has conducted field studies in residential landscapes and at municipal parks to evaluate “smart” irrigation control devices for reducing water use. Large-scale revegetation research is ongoing with sponsorships from Duke Energy North America and Sempra Energy; this program provides support for a PhD candidate in SNRE.

For information contact:
David Quanrud